Chicago City Council

Some Chicago City Council members advocate for more police helicopters to deter smash-and-grab burglaries

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In an effort to halt what appears to be a growing trend, some members of Chicago City Council are advocating for the use of police helicopters to crack down on smash-and-grab burglaries that use stolen vehicles to crash into storefronts.

Boneyard, a shoe store located in Chicago's West Town neighborhood, was one of the latest victims this week as an SUV could be seen sitting wedged between the building and the store's security gates Thursday afternoon.

“It’s frustrating to say the least because we have taken all the precautions we can to protect our business,” the store’s owner, Jacob, who prefers not to use his last name, told NBC Chicago.

In the aftermath of the crimes that often involve stolen vehicles, some City Council members are calling for an increase in available helicopters for the Chicago Police Department.

At a recent hearing, CPD Supt. Larry Snelling told the Budget Committee that access to several helicopters has been helpful in the past.

“That air support was able to follow individuals to a particular location and CPD was able to get there and take those individuals into custody,” Snelling said.

42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly, a long-time advocate of more helicopters, told committee members that the Los Angeles Police Department maintains a fleet of 16 helicopters, while the New York Police Department and Houston Police Department have seven and eight helicopters, respectively.

According to CPD, the department currently has two operational helicopters. Another helicopter is on order, but is not expected to arrive until the later months of 2024.

“Let’s talk about budgeting for more helicopters, because we are way behind the rest of the country when it comes to that technology and I think it shows,” Reilly said.

But not every alderperson thinks more helicopters are the answer.

29th Ward Ald. Chris Taliaferro questioned how effective they can be at deterring smash-and-grab burglaries.

“How can a helicopter get off the ground, into the air and get that unit or find that vehicle in an adequate time?” he said.

As for Boneyard, Jacob plans to reopen the store in a few days with additional security measures in place.

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