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County officials want law enforcement helicopter back

MAYVILLE — Chautauqua County officials are working to re-establish the use of a helicopter during law enforcement situations.

During the Chautauqua County Legislature Public Safety Committee meeting in September, James Quattrone, county sheriff, and PJ Wendel, R-Lakewood and legislature chairman, discussed how county officials will be drafting a letter request that the New York State Police locate a helicopter in Chautauqua County to use for law enforcement purposes.

Wendel said since Stat MedEvac took over for Starflight the Sheriff’s Office has lost the use of a helicopter during law enforcement situations. He said receiving support from Air1 in Buffalo in Erie County is happening less, as well.

Quattrone told said that the Sheriff’s Office had used Starflight during law enforcement situations that involved marijuana growing operations, a lost person in the woods and to locate someone during emergency situations on Chautauqua Lake.

He said the Sheriff’s Office was in need of a helicopter less than 10 times a year. He added that he hasn’t requested assistance from Stat MedEvac for use in law enforcement situation. However, he said Stat MedEvac helicopters are not equipped for search and rescue.

“The option is to make a proposal to the state police to see if they are looking for a place in the western part of the state,” he said. “I’m not optimistic, but we want them to know we are open to it.”

Wendel, during the Public Safety Committee meeting, said Capt. Eric Balon of the New York State Police in Jamestown supports the idea. Quattrone said the state’s helicopter could be located at the Chautauqua Dunkirk Airport. He said county officials have state funding to build a new hanger at the Dunkirk airport where the helicopter could be located.

Quattrone said even if the county isn’t approved for a state police helicopter to be located in Dunkirk that the future for search and rescue might be by drone. He said the Sheriff’s Office has a certified drone operator and the county emergency services department has a drone. He added that the Jamestown Police Department and the state police also have drones.

“We’re looking to utilize those more for search and rescue and law enforcement purposes,” he said. “Some states are using drones to assist in accident recreations as well, which would limit the amount of time we have to close roads down. It definitely gives us an option to put a helicopter or a drone up to locate individuals in secluded areas and to cover more area in a shorter period of time. That way were using less man power and fewer resources, and, hopefully, it would speed up a recovery operation.”

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