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Councilor Dan Champine adds $3 million for new APD Helicopter

City Council forwards GRT Improvement Revenue Bonds to Mayor’s office
May 08, 2024

Albuquerque, NM – Albuquerque is closer to having an additional helicopter to help APD in their mission to keep residents safe.

City Councilor for District 8, Dan Champine, a former police officer, requested $3 million in funding to purchase a second helicopter for the city. That funding was included in a GRT Improvement Revenue Bond bill (O-24-10) the Council passed this week and forwarded to Mayor Tim Keller Thursday.

“Helicopters help our officers on the street in their basic work from day to day,” said Champine, who spent the last six years of his career patrolling Albuquerque via helicopter. “Whether it’s high-speed pursuits, critical searches for suspects or missing children, or daily patrol, a helicopter is a valuable tool in law enforcement and public safety. It’s one of my top priorities, and we’re closing in on the finish line to getting this done.”

Digital rendering of the Airbus H125 Helicopter with specifications

The addition of a second helicopter will help APD in its mission of reducing crime in our community while increasing officer safety in patrol and high-risk operations. The additional helicopter will help avoid long periods where air support is not available at all to APD commanders because of federally mandated maintenance. Another chopper will ensure there is continued coverage over Albuquerque’s skies.

An example of the value of air support happened just six months ago, in November 2023, when APD disrupted street racing near San Mateo and Osuna and a suspect in an orange Dodge Challenger fled from officers. APD’s helicopter was able to pursue the suspect as he reached speeds of 120mph on Albuquerque’s streets. Officers followed at safe speeds as air support followed the vehicle. The Challenger eventually ran out of gas and officers were nearby to quickly arrest the driver. They later identified the owner of the vehicle and the original driver. Without air support, APD would likely have disengaged from the pursuit because of the danger to other drivers and the suspects would likely have escaped, as they had before.

APD currently operates an Airbus H125 and will purchase a second H125 with a combination of city and state funding. Champine and the Administration requested $6 million from the state in the 2024 legislative session. The City received $3 million, which left officials scrambling for additional funding to complete the purchase. Champine added the additional funding to the Gross Receipts Tax Improvement Revenue Bond legislation that also funds priorities like the Gibson Health Hub and the Westside Emergency Housing Shelter.

Champine says helicopters can help ground units as a platform from which to observe, track, and illuminate people or places on the ground. Flight crews can provide a perspective that cannot be achieved on the ground. The helicopter’s altitude and onboard equipment, particularly the searchlight and infrared camera, create a tactical advantage for police by providing them with assistance and aerial cover.

“They can communicate with ground units and provide information to direct them toward an intended position or away from a dangerous one,” says Champine. “The overall goal is always to make our residents safer. Helicopters play a key role in that mission.”