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Police departments test partnership

February 09, 2009|By Tom Risen

BURBANK — The Police Department is testing a three-way helicopter patrol system with Glendale and Pasadena, seeking to improve efficiency as the city scrambles to trim its budget.

The Burbank and Glendale police departments, which formed a helicopter partnership two years ago, say their joint venture has been a success and are pooling their helicopter resources with the Pasadena Police Department on a trial basis. After the initial success of sharing a three-city patrol area two days a week between November and January, they are now taking the program four days week, said Capt. Bob Mulhall of Pasadena Police Air Operations.

“Our helicopters are working with Glendale’s and Burbank’s to respond to wherever the highest-priority call is,” Mulhall said. “From November to January, we were trying the partnership two days a week, and it worked fine. Now we’re trying it four days a week until the middle of March to determine the pros and cons.”

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Mulhall said his force’s top priority is to improve service rather than to save money, but the effort has already paid off for the other two cities.

After being formalized in May 2007, the joint program between the Burbank and Glendale police departments has saved Glendale $300,000 and Burbank $375,000 in annual costs, said Lt. Carl Povilaitis of the Glendale Police Department’s Traffic Bureau.

“We currently have a trial program going on, collecting data about response times and number of calls within the geographic area of responsibility, and the impressions are positive,” Povilaitis said. “If we find the helicopters can physically cover a three-city area and provide consistent service, it might be possible to cut budgets while meeting the same expectations.”

The Pasadena Police Department approached Burbank and Glendale about joining the partnership in 2008, Burbank Police Chief Tim Stehr said.

“In 2007, the police chiefs of all three cities met to discuss the program, and Pasadena said they were somewhat interested but wanted to see how it worked out between us and Glendale,” Stehr said. “With the economic conditions we’re seeing now, Pasadena contacted us, said they were interested, and we agreed to start a trial program in November to see if it was feasible.”

Since Glendale and Burbank border each other, the two-city partnership has already cut flight time and fuel, Stehr said.

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