Federal Money Buys Regional Helicopter & Tactical Vehicles

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - From search and rescue to hostage situations; helicopters are invaluable. But, if the City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County weren't all sharing then none of them might be able to afford an air fleet on their own.

"The main advantage for us in St. Charles county is without this partnership we wouldn't be able to have airborne law enforcement services." said Sheriff Tom Neer of St. Charles County.

"Would you be able to afford any of this stuff if you had to pay for it on your own?  Absolutely not. If it wasn't for the federal money that's available to by these, we would not, in fact, have an air support unit right now." said Chief Tim Fitch of the St. Louis County Police.

A new helicopter delivered Wednesday will be part of regional law enforcement. There is also a huge new equipment vehicle and an armored military-style tactical vehicle.

"It's unique. It's the only vehicle in the Midwest that has an elevated platform on it.  It enables us to get to the second, third floor of a building." said Capt. John Belmar of the St. Louis County Police.

The new helicopters and the ground vehicles are paid for by something called the Urban Security Initiative from the department of Homeland Security. But a lot of critics are wondering why Homeland Security is paying for equipment for local law enforcement.

Since 2003 the St. Louis Metro area has received around 81 million dollars from the Urban Security Initiative. The new helicopter alone costs over two million dollars.  But, should federal anti-terror money be going to local cops in an area with low terrorist potential like St. Louis?

"It's needed equipment that we need for this great area in which we live. It makes sense." said St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley.

This may be the last year federal anti-terror money's available for cities outside of big target cities like New York and Washington, D.C.