CHICAGO – Continuing his efforts to enhance public safety in Illinois, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that the state will acquire two helicopters from the federal government that will be available for search and rescue, counter-drug and counter-terrorism operations in Illinois. The helicopters will be provided to Rockford area police departments to assist public safety officials in the region.
In coming weeks, the Belvidere and Byron Police Departments will each receive a Bell OH-58A helicopter through a state program that secures federal surplus on behalf of local law enforcement agencies – the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO), coordinated by the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS). The helicopters, previously used by the U.S. Department of Defense, will meet regional public safety needs with no acquisition costs to the state or local agencies.
“Law enforcement officers in Rockford now have new tools to help protect their communities. These helicopters flying overhead will help fight drugs, terrorists and also help in search and rescue,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
In addition to the helicopters for Belvidere and Byron, the state previously coordinated and approved the transfer of two helicopters from the federal government to local law enforcement agencies: Countryside Police Department in Will County and Winthrop Harbor in Lake County. Together, these four helicopters will enhance Illinois’ homeland security.
Law enforcement agencies statewide annually obtain millions of dollars in equipment that they need to operate effectively including vehicles, furniture, electronics and other unneeded federal property. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, CMS obtained a record amount of surplus equipment, totaling $5.1 million for Illinois police agencies. That amount is up 34 percent, or $1.3 million from the previous year, and nearly double the $2.7 million provided in fiscal year 2004.
“Recently I learned about how one of the helicopters the state previously acquired was used to help to find a missing person, and I know that this equipment is impacting people’s lives,” said CMS Director Paul Campbell. “These helicopters also play a role in improving counter-terrorism and drug-enforcement activities in Illinois, and that means safer neighborhoods and communities for our families.”
State officials continue to work with the Department of Defense to identify communities where additional public safety equipment can be transferred. Recently, state officials secured a fifth helicopter for Illinois and continue to work with law enforcement entities in Central Illinois to place this equipment into service.