The Law Enforcement Aviation Coalition, a not-for-profit, charitable organization in Winthrop Harbor, Ill., has expanded its operations into northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin with the acquisition of three new helicopters.
The Bell Helicopter OH-58Cs were donated through the Defense Dept.’s surplus program. One has been completely refurbished; the second was to be finished last month. The third is to be complete the end of September. When all are complete, they will have been repainted and the airframes repaired. Unnecessary antennas will have been removed and up-to-date navigational devices, including GPS and street- level maps, will have been installed. The aircraft are on 24/7 call and will be equipped with night-vision goggles, a NightSun FS16 searchlight providing 40 million candle power and FLIR Systems Ultra 8000.
The consortium was formed four years ago to provide helicopters to small towns that could otherwise not afford the law enforcement tool. There is no charge for the use of the helicopter. Mike Bitton, a tactical flight officer for the city of Winthrop Harbor, said there has been an increase in the apprehension of criminals since the consortium was formed. Bitton is also a Winthrop Harbor police officer and on the board of directors of the consortium.