San Diego Police helicopter hours cut

Getting criminals off the streets is getting even tougher because of state budget cuts.

The San Diego Police Department was forced to ground its helicopter for four hours a day.

Police helicopters ensure the safety and security of citizens and police officers from all sorts of threats, and on average they help make two felony arrests per day.

“High ground is always the best ground. If you have the high ground you're probably gonna have a better chance of success, and that's what ABLE (Airborne Law Enforcement) brings to us, the high ground,” said Chief Bob Kanaski.

ABLE units track and detain criminals, they locate missing persons or search for suspects, vehicles and property, and they can do it in a fraction of the time it would take ground units.

Then there are the pursuits.

“In the high risk, high speed pursuits that we have, one of the things you've seen over the years by having them available for those high speed pursuits, we're able to cancel ground units which then brings in the safety factor for citizens in that general area.  Number two, it almost guarantees we're gonna catch the suspects, we're gonna stay with them 'til the end,” Chief Kanaski said.

The hit to the San Diego Police Department from state budget cuts is somewhere between $1.5 and $1.8 million, more than enough to cover the cost of restoring the flights.

Right after the Fourth of July weekend, the department had to cut flight hours from 10 hours a day to 6 hours.

Fortunately, this may only be temporary. There's a chance the state my restore the funding, and if that doesn't work the council will look at restoring the funds during the mid-year budget review.

“What we'll do is look for those funds that put the healthy aspect of ABLE back in, get that funding back where it needs to be, and put the flights back up in the air where they need to be,” said Chief Kanaski.

Meanwhile, rest assured if there's an emergency that needs air support it will be there.

“Those times where the helicopter is on the ground we do understand there are emergencies that do come in.  It could be a bank robbery, there could be an assault with a deadly weapon, missing child, somebody who may be lost in a park.  If we need to go up, we're gonna go up,” Chief Kanaski said.

The cost is $3.5 million per year to keep the helicopters in the air.  A million of that is paid by the City. The remainder is state funding.

Categories: KUSI