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Councilors propose new APD helicopter


City Councilors Ken Sanchez, right, and Trudy Jones, second from left, hold a news conference Wednesday to discuss needed funding for a new Albuquerque Police Department helicopter. Pictured at the podium is APD pilot Sgt. Will Taylor discussing the disadvantages of flying the current aircraft. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque City Councilors Ken Sanchez and Trudy Jones on Wednesday announced they are sponsoring a resolution that, if passed, would appropriate $5.2 million to purchase a new helicopter for the police department.

The Albuquerque Police Department currently owns and flies a 17-year-old Eurocopter EC120B that department officials have said is not well suited for full operation anymore, especially during the warmer months.

Department officials have also said a new, more reliable aircraft is needed to find and arrest criminals in a safer manner than pursuit using police vehicles.

During a news conference at APD’s Forensic Science Center on Wednesday, Sanchez said the proposed resolution would appropriate $5.2 million from surplus revenue from last fiscal year to buy the new helicopter that would give officers an edge in tracking suspects running from police.

“Crime does not stop. Crime goes on in Albuquerque 24/7, and we need the tools available to assure the Albuquerque Police Department that they are making the right decisions and the sound decisions,” Sanchez said. “I believe this helicopter will make a difference in combatting crime in our city.”

Although the helicopter the department currently uses has been down for maintenance much of the year, the helicopter unit has been responsible for 35 felony arrests, 12 felony assists, 27 stolen vehicle recoveries and $326,500 in property recovered in 2018, according to department statistics.

This 2006 photo shows the Albuquerque Police Department’s helicopter landing at Double Eagle Airport for fuel. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Modern police helicopters can be equipped with the high-definition cameras that enable pilots to fly higher, see more and operate with less noise so residents are not disturbed, said APD pilot Sgt. Will Taylor. He also said video and data can be transmitted to APD’s Real Time Crime Center during live pursuits and surveillance missions.

“With the current helicopter we have, there are times we can’t undertake the mission because it isn’t capable,” Taylor said.

Sanchez said once the council passes the resolution, which was introduced Wednesday, he hoped the department would acquire the new helicopter in six to eight months.

Mayor Tim Keller issued a statement Wednesday asking the City Council take fast action to help the department modernize its air support capabilities.