Sheriff Tom Dart secures funding from Cook County for a helicopter to track down carjackers.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart announced Thursday that his office will purchase a helicopter to track carjackers, search for missing people, and provide assistance during large-scale emergencies.

According to Dart, the Cook County Board approved $11.4 million in next year’s budget to get one, which was carried over from funds that were not spent in the 2022 budget.

“This is an incredibly important investment by the county,” Dart said.

The Chicago Police Department owns two Bell helicopters, one from 1994 and one from 2006. However, the helicopters it shares with the sheriff’s office are frequently grounded due to maintenance issues and lack the navigation equipment needed to fly in bad weather.

The sheriff’s office has also received a $2.5 million federal grant for the purchase of a helicopter and related equipment. According to sheriff’s officials, the final cost, including staffing, storage, and maintenance, is being determined. They haven’t decided whether it will be purchased or leased.

Dart stated that he hopes to have a new helicopter in the air by next summer.

According to city officials, the Chicago Police Department is planning to purchase two helicopters. The city’s budget director said last month that $11.5 million was set aside for them.

Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), whose Southwest Side ward is home to hundreds of Chicago police officers, has called for the city’s helicopter fleet to be upgraded.

“Every major municipality in this country has purchased helicopters — more than a hundred of the top eight major cities,” O’Shea said during a budget hearing in September. “We’re still flying up there with helicopters from when many of us were still in high school.”

Other cities have larger fleets of police helicopters. The Los Angeles Police Department is equipped with 17 helicopters. The New York Police Department has nine, two of which are brand new.

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