IF YOU’RE A CRIMINAL planning on being chased, here’s bad news. The city has added two helicopters to the police department’s fleet, bringing the total number to five. Last year, Dallas police used air assistance on 4,100 calls, mostly for searches and chases (of both the car and the foot varieties), netting 905 arrests. In the real-life game of cops and robbers, it’s hard to escape the overhead beam of a three-million candlepow-er spotlight.
Because the 14-offker helicopter unit generally flies only one chopper at a time-with an extra whirlybird on call for major emergencies such as floods and riots-the two new helicopters weren’t exactly necessities. But since they were donated by the U.S. Army as it continues to clean out its garage, the free birds were hard to refuse. Turning these Charlie-chasers into copper-choppers (which includes fitting them with infrared detection systems and painting them to match Dallas police cars) will cost the city about $250,000. This means a cost of less than 50 cents to each taxpayer to ensure that a suspect who runs can’t hide-even if police were simultaneously chasing a car on LBJ Freeway, assisting on a plane crash at DFW, and rescuing someone from a surging Trinity River while the other helicopter was in the shop.