High in the sky: Nevada County Sheriff gets $30K more for helicopter flights in search of illegal drug activity
Sheriff Keith Royal has secured an additional $30,000 for helicopter rental and pilot services, money that will go in part to searches for illegal marijuana grows.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved the extra money, which comes from asset forfeitures. It brings the total amount designated for helicopters this fiscal year to $55,000.
Supervisor Hank Weston was absent.
The increase in funds, initially on the board’s consent calendar, was discussed separately after Christopher Shoup made the request.
Shoup argued the board should avoid providing taxpayer dollars for the sheriff to use helicopters to violate people’s rights.
“Why should there be a search?” Shoup asked.
Royal noted the helicopters violated no one’s rights. The helicopters are used to find illegal drug activity.
“We’re not looking for every little garden,” sheriff’s Lt. Bill Smethers said. “We’re looking for the commercial-sized gardens.”
Supervisor Ed Scofield said he’s flown in a helicopter used by the sheriff’s office, noting the ease at spotting grows. He estimated he saw about 100 on his flight.
“We need to get over this idea that these helicopters are violating someone’s privacy,” Supervisor Nate Beason said. “I think we need to get serious about what we’re doing here.”
According to Royal, his office budgeted $25,000 this fiscal year for the helicopters. It’s already spent $30,000.
The additional money will pay for the outstanding bill and provide funds for more flights. It costs about $1,000 for one hour of flight, Royal said.
The fiscal year ends June 30.
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.
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