Chicago's skies have not been patrolled by police for almost 25 years. But thanks to $2 million in Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant funding from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the City of Chicago and Cook County police are back in the air again with a brand new Bell 206 JetRanger and retrofitted Bell 206L helicopter.
Both helicopters are outfitted with UHF, VHF, 800-MHz and crossband repeat radios, LoJack stolen vehicle detection systems, moving map systems, Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR), video monitors in the passenger and crew compartments, digital video recorders, microwave downlink system and a searchlight. The JetRanger also has a Chelton Electronic Flight Information System (EFIS), Exploranium Gamma Radiation Detector and night vision instrumentation.
On a recent flight 1,200 feet above the Windy City, Harold Hohm, chief pilot of the Chicago Police Department and Cook County Sheriff's Office Helicopter Task Force performed a homeland security check of the water intake cribs in Lake Michigan and the water filtration plants along the shore. Hohm stresses the importance of using helicopters for various law enforcement needs.
"We have to be flexible," Hohm says. "We consider everyday crime fighting to be as important as our homeland security duties. We use these helicopters for crowd control, surveillance, narcotics activity, gang activity and to protect the lives of our officers and citizens."
Deputy superintendent John Risley considers the cooperative atmosphere the most valuable component to fighting crime and protecting the citizens of Chicago. He says everyone understands the need to get the job done as a team. "As in all big cities we have sophisticated gang organizations as well as the ever-present terrorist threat," Risley says. "We communicate effectively with the all public safety agencies and I can honestly say that egos don't play into the equation."
The grant gurus
One of the people in charge of finding and securing funding from grants available to the Chicago PD for homeland security is Sgt. Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly works through the funding maze of UASI, Buffer Zone Protection Plan (BZPP), Port Security Zone (PSZ), with personnel from the research and development division, to locate funds available from DHS and other sources, such as foundation grants, to pay for requested equipment, services and upgrades. Grant applications are submitted with input from the requesting units and with the cooperation of other city agencies such as the Chicago Fire Department and the Office of Emergency Management and Communication.
Total grant money received for homeland security purposes exceeds $47,280,000 for the City of Chicago/Cook County UASI, and $543,000 in 2006 BZPP money awarded for 2007. These funds are utilized by the police department, the Office of Emergency Management and Communication, Chicago Fire Department, the Chicago Health Department, the Department of Environment, and is shared with Cook County as well.
O'Reilly looks at past success to produce future funding. "The continued success of Chicago's innovation and implementation is very helpful when applying for continuing grants. We produce the measurable results the DHS looks for when doling out money. Many of our projects have become national initiatives, it's hard to deny us funding with this kind of track record," he says.
Once funds are secured, Sgt. Pat O'Malley keeps track of the UASI and other grant funding to make sure it's used to purchase the equipment for which it was intended. Teamwork is essential in keeping a constant flow of DHS funding.
Model fusion center
One of the most sophisticated fusion centers in the world resides at Chicago PD headquarters. The Crime Prevention and Information Center (CPIC) helps address regional intelligence concerns. It opened in April 2007, funded with a $300,000 UASI grant.