Legislator Kevin Hardwick, R-Tonawanda, announces that the necessary funding for a new state-of-the-art landing pad for the Erie County Sheriff’s helicopter was approved during the Erie County Legislature’s Oct. 20, 2011 session.
The new $31,000 landing pad will provide a safe takeoff and landing surface for the Sheriff’s “Air-1” helicopter, which is piloted by Captain Kevin Caffery and Tactical Flight Officer Arthur Litzinger and located in the Town of Evans. The new ‘HELIWAGON” is a remote controlled takeoff and landing dolly that will replace the 40-year-old dolly currently being used.
Captain Caffery commented that this new equipment will dramatically decrease the amount of time it takes him to get airborne and respond to the various requests that are continuously made for AIR-1. Captain Caffery said “seconds count” in search and rescue operations and sometimes are the difference in saving victims lives. Just last week Captain Caffery and TFO Litzinger were involved in three rescue operations.
“This Sheriff’s helicopter responds to numerous crisis situations during the year and is successful in locating and saving many residents who were in extreme danger. I am proud to support this expenditure and the Sheriff’s Office efforts in protecting the residents of Erie County,” Legislator Hardwick said. “In addition, we are saving taxpayer dollars by choosing to replace the landing pad instead of refurbishing the current pad, which is outdated and would cost twice as much to repair.”
During session the Legislature also approved funding to purchase vehicles that will aid narcotics personnel with their efforts during investigations. The Sheriff’s Office will be utilizing $170,000 in drug seized asset funds to modernize and update its aging narcotics fleet. The new vehicles that will be purchased from these funds will increase surveillance opportunities and allow narcotics detectives to gain intelligence that is critical to any illegal drug investigation.
“It is a very unique concept that we use money seized from successful drug investigations and reinvest it in equipment that will ultimately assist us in seizing more money and assets in the future,” said Undersheriff Mark N. Wipperman.
“Law enforcement’s battle against drugs is growing increasingly difficult. By funding their needs we can best prepare the Sheriff’s Office to handle this task. I applaud their efforts and will continue to provide my full support,” Legislator Hardwick said.
Legislator Hardwick was also pleased to announce, that by Legislature approval, the Sheriff’s Office has been authorized to enter into a contract with the U.S. Department of Justice to receive $500,000 to participate in the WNY Enhanced Collaborative to Combat Human Trafficking Grant. The Erie County Sheriff’s Office was recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice as a top law enforcement agency in regards to combating Human Trafficking. The DOJ awarded a $500,000 grant to continue the Sheriff’s Office role in the WNY Human Trafficking coalition.
Erie County Sheriff’s Deputy Elizabeth Fildes is the head of the WNY Human Trafficking Alliance, a task force of local, state and federal law enforcement officials. She has traveled throughout the United States and places outside the country, such as Guatemala to lecture and train other law enforcement personnel on recognizing and combating human trafficking. This grant will allow Deputy Fildes and other Sheriff’s personnel to continue their crusade against this horrible crime.
With Legislature approval the Sheriff’s Office will be able to move forward with utilizing the funds appropriately.
For additional information on Legislative items or to speak with Legislator Hardwick, please call his Legislative Office at (716) 873-3438 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.