By Staff Writer | September 1, 2007
The city of Stockton, Calif. is preparing to say goodbye to its police helicopter.
The red, white, and blue 1973 Bell Helicopter OH-58, purchased in 2005, was operated under Metro Air Support, a non-profit entity. Created by a member of the city’s police department, it was funded through charitable donations from citizens and other sources.
When those funds dried up in early 2007, Stockton voted to give the program $40,000 to keep it operating through June as an on-call asset instead of a patrol aircraft while backers search for operating cash. Finding none, the company made the decision to put the aircraft up for sale.
The Stockton police officer who founded Metro Air Support, Tim Ray, said the program needs $300,000 to repay the debt it incurred when it bought the aircraft. It managed to collect $25,000 in donations, and hope to get $275,000 for the helicopter.
"With the city growing, and the city’s boundaries growing, we loved having the help," said Ray of the support the helicopter provided above the 60-sq-mi (155-sq-km) city.
The loss will also be felt by the six fire districts that had service agreements with Metro Air Support, including Escalon, Ripon, and Woodbridge.
Stockton may not be without a helicopter very long if the police department has its way. The agency included a helicopter of its own in its official planning goals submitted to the city for 2008. Ray says that’s good news.
Stockton is located in the San Joaquin Valley, 50 nm (95 km) east of San Francisco. Its 650-person police force protects a population of 286,000 residents.