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H.B. helicopter will continue serving neighbors

Costa Mesa City Council votes to extend shared-service program another six months.

November 16, 2011|By Joseph Serna

Huntington Beach's police helicopter will continue servicing Costa Mesa for the next six months with the approval of Costa Mesa's City Council extending that city's $150,000 contract Tuesday night.

Though the contract was criticized by some residents who challenged the need for police in the air and others who complained about the noise, Costa Mesa officials said the money was worth it.

"Staff has been pleased with the service," said Costa Mesa police Capt. Les Gogerty.

In June, Costa Mesa signed a contract with Huntington Beach to have its helicopter respond to Costa Mesa incidents to the tune of $700 an hour. The contract came on the heels of Costa Mesa grounding its own police helicopter program, Airborne Law Enforcement (ABLE), which it shared with Newport Beach.

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ABLE cost Costa Mesa about $1.3 million annually in maintenance and personnel costs, city officials reported. As recently as 2006, the ABLE helicopter was patrolling Newport-Mesa skies up to 10 hours a day. That number was cut in half a few years ago as the recession's effects hit local governments.

Finally, in February, the city cut the program altogether and Newport Beach followed suit.

Huntington Beach's helicopter flies 10 hours a day and responds to Costa Mesa incidents about an hour a day, said Costa Mesa Police Chief Tom Gazsi. Though Huntington Beach police don't regularly patrol over Costa Mesa — that's not part of the agreement — they do respond to incidents in the city as needed, authorities said.

Newport Beach signed its own contract to use Huntington Beach's helicopter earlier this year.

joseph.serna@latimes.com

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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