Flint, MI– After months of preparation, the Flint Police Department’s new helicopter is set to be up in the air this weekend for Halloween and the day before.
“It will be up in the air hopefully…on Angel’s night, and it will help us push back against any additional elements of crime,” Mayor Sheldon Neeley said during a press conference on Oct. 28. “Kids are gonna be out trick-or-treating for Halloween, and we’re going to have an extra eye and ear to be able to help us keep residents safe in this community.”
In July, the police department requested $304,050 to lease a helicopter for three months, with the goal of helping officers on the ground, improving response times, and better monitoring the city. The plan was to deploy it a few days a week during peak crime hours.
The Flint City Council unanimously approved the contract on July 27, but it took a few months to get it ready for use. In the words of Police Chief Terence Green, there was “a lot of red tape and a lot of administrative things” that needed to be taken care of before the helicopter could be used.
Now that it’s ready, Green said the helicopter will be used just like “normal patrol.”
“It’s going to be data-driven, and evidence-based. It depends on our peak crime hours, things of that nature,” Green said. “We’re depending on our statistics and our data…and basically that will decide when we will deploy it, what time we will deploy it.”
The helicopter has special lighting and computer equipment that can monitor events on the ground to assist the police in decreasing response times to high priority calls and crimes.
Officials initially wanted the helicopter up and running in the summer, when crime is typically higher, but Green said the department plans to use it next summer.
Although it’s a three-month lease, the months don’t need to be consecutive, and the department has until the end of the fiscal year to use the funding, Green said.
“It’s going to be weather-dependent. But the majority of the funding for this, we’re going to hold that over to the summer,” Green said. “We’ll look at the crime data, and hopefully by April, we’ll definitely have that 13-week period at the start of summer.”
Some people have expressed their skepticism of the police department’s use of a helicopter, but Green said he “doesn’t spend much time and energy on the naysayers.”
“I know what our mission is, and what our goal is,” Green said.