What’s with East Baton Rouge owning a helicopter? Is it used by all city services? Fire, EMS, Police, Office of Emergency Management or whatever it’s called? How much did it cost initially and how much do maintenance and pilots cost? How many criminals have been apprehended using the helicopter? What’s the hourly cost to fly it?

Response from Baton Rouge Police Sgt. Donald Stone:

“The helicopter was bought to prevent and reduce crime in and around the city of Baton Rouge. Some of the objectives are as follows: 1) provide real-time surveillance intelligence in ongoing investigations; 2) enable suspect identification in both auto and foot pursuits from aerial observations; 3) tactical assistance with viewing search warrants and recognizance intelligence; 4) traffic safety; 5) (control of) large crowd gatherings and special events; and 6) reduce pursuits/pursuit length of time by relaying real-time information to ground units.

“The helicopter is available for use by any requesting agency within East Baton Rouge Parish as well as the surrounding area. The helicopter has assisted EBRSO, Louisiana State Police, LSU Police, Port Allen Police, and performed a rescue on the Amite River for the Central Fire Department.?The helicopter also assisted the Mayor’s Office of Homeland Security and the city-parish Department of Public Works during the recent high-water event on the Mississippi River.

“The initial cost was $945,845, bought through Justice Assistance Grant. Maintenance and fuel costs were $61,240.94 for 2010 and $42,165.61 through the middle of August 2011. The current cost per hour (maintenance and fuel) is approximately $72 per hour. There were no costs for the pilots as they were all Baton Rouge (police officers) prior to their assignment to the unit. The pilots do receive $300 a month in incentive pay for being a pilot. Five pilots and one supervisor are assigned to the unit full time. One pilot is on an active duty deployment with the military at this time. There are four officers who take turns on a part-time basis to act as tactical flight officers for the unit. The helicopter is responsible for or took part in the apprehension of 162 criminals since its inception in 2010.”

Smoking in state vehicles

Since there is no smoking in state buildings, does the same apply to state vehicles? I observed a driver smoking while operating a state vehicle on the other day, therefore, I was wondering.

Michael DiResto, spokesman for the Louisiana Division of Administration, said there is no statewide policy on smoking in state vehicles. He said department heads may make that restriction for the vehicles under their control.

Send questions to Ask The Advocate, P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-0588; or fax to Ask The Advocate, (225) 388-0297; or email asktheadvocate@theadvocate.com