OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A donation from a private group will help the Oakland Police Department’s helicopter spend more time in the air to help catch criminals, Police Chief Howard Jordan said Wednesday.

Jordan said the $10,000 donation from Fueling California, a nonprofit that represents major fuel consumers such as airlines, is “a great day for the city of Oakland” because the helicopter is “a force multiplier that helps us respond to calls quicker.”

Lt. Michael Poirier said the Oakland City Council used to provide $350,000 a year to fund the helicopter, which is named “Argus,” but that amount was cut to less than $100,000 during budget cuts in 2009.

The helicopter was in the air for 1,000 hours in 2008 when it was fully funded but it was only in the air for 200 hours last year, Poirier said.

The donation will allow the helicopter to be in the air for an additional 80 hours this year, he said.

Bruce D.D. Mac Rae, a United Parcel Service vice president who is one of Fueling California’s board members, called on businesses and organizations in Oakland to provide additional donations to help fund the helicopter.

“If we all band together we can keep that bird up in the sky to protect us,” Mac Rae said.

Poirier said the helicopter contributed to several hundred arrests when it was fully funded in 2008 and described it as “a very expensive piece of equipment but very necessary.”

The helicopter flew about 50 hours during Occupy Oakland protests and is “a godsend to commanders on the ground” because it provides them with important information, he said.

The helicopter is named Argus in honor of the mythical giant with a hundred eyes who was “an ever-watchful guardian,” Poirier said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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