By Jane Hague
Heavy rains and floods isolating communities. A child separated from a group hiking Tiger Mountain. A fugitive on the run along a major transportation corridor. These examples are vivid reminders of the necessity for the King County Sheriff’s Office newest piece of equipment, the newest “Guardian One” helicopter.
Being a strong supporter of public safety and a member of County Council Budget Leadership, I joined King County Sheriff Sue Rahr and Bellevue Police Chief Linda Pillo on a “fly around” in the Sheriff Department’s Guardian One helicopter.
The new Guardian One’s home base is King County, but it is truly a regional asset. It will provide seamless service throughout the region because cities can use it at no additional cost for any threat to life or property. Partnerships with Pierce and Snohomish counties mean it will be available from Marysville to Puyallup. Contracts with the Coast Guard and the state Department of Ecology mean it’s on hand for emergencies from the Cascades to the Puget Sound.
Having a state-of-the-art helicopter is critical because 21st century crimes call for 21st century approaches to criminal activities. Local governments in the region will accrue many benefits through access to this Bell 407 helicopter. First of all, it is a much more efficient way of implementing search and rescue efforts. In the air, Guardian One can replace approximately 50 officers on the ground.
Second, it has special features including a heat-sensing infrared system, a night-to-day spotlight, mapping software, visual connections from ground command bases to view what’s seen in the air, the capability to track transceiver signals from special bracelets worn by those with Alzheimer’s and an ability to track cars with a new technology called “LoJack” – an inaudible radio signal police can activate when a car with this system is reported stolen.
The county carefully leveraged its resources by obtaining a $3.4 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security to pay for Guardian One – an important win in these tough budget times.
Guardian One can make the difference between life and death. It is cooperation throughout the branches of county government that helped ‘land’ this helicopter and demonstrates that public safety is a top priority for county government.
Jane Hague represents the County Council’s 6th District, which includes Bellevue, Kirkland and Mercer Island.