Oakland Police Helicopter Flying Now

Why is the Oakland Police Helicopter flying now?
Oakland Police helcopter
If you’re wondering why there are helicopters over Oakland right now here are 3 ways to find out.
1) Sign up to get text updates from the Oakland Police Department. I have instructions at the bottom of this article.
2) The Oakland Police Scanner app. If you search for it on your phone you should find a free version.
3) Make sure it’s not just a car accident on 880 or 580 with Sigalert.
4) You can try the Twitter feed below.
5) Buy your own Helicopter!

Note that most of you moved here during the stretch where the Oakland Police Helicopter was grounded due to funding. Now that it’s back you think if it’s flying it must be Oscar Grant Riots or Occupy Oakland. However the fact is ARGUS was a major tool for OPD and used to fly every day most of the day. There is a lot of crime in our city and now that the funding is being restored you should just get used to the police helicopter as part of your normal every day background sounds of the Oakland soundtrack along with the ambulances and police cars.
Welcome back ARGUS!

If you’re looking for the murder rate try Oakland Homicide Count.

Oakland Police Helicopter Facts:

  • OPD’s Helicopter Air Support Unit was started in 1971
  • ARGUS stands for Aerial Reconnaissance Ground Unit Support. I was told this by two Oakland Police Officers during my High Schools career week in 1996.
  • The Helicopter Pilot of ARGUS goes by the call sign of Eagle One when on the radio to dispatch and assisting ground units. I learned this while listening live to a manhunt unfold on a scanner app by the name of Scanner Radio Pro.
  • Argus Panoptes was also a giant with a hundred eyes known as the all seeing in Greek Mythology.
  • ARGUS crashed in 1973 killing two Oakland Police officers. Several reports say the pilot was shot in the head by a sniper and a group even claimed it yet the final report says it was a mechanical failure even though the pilot had a bullet hole in his head. Fishy?

You may wonder where the Oakland Police Helicopters have been hiding these last few years. Our Ghetto Birds(yes we have two) have been grounded for the last 5 years. In 2009 budget cuts forced the choppers to stay on the ground… outside of a hanger. Where they have been battling weather damage since they were moved form Hangar 1 to the South Field outdoors. I’m not sure of their exact homes at this time but I believe they are still sitting outside where they can sometimes be seen from Hegenberger.

While ARGUS has been grounded for like 5 years it has still flown in a few emergency situations such as the death of four Oakland Police Officers in March of 2009 and the Oscar Grant riots as well as all of the Occupy Oakland protest. The police helicopter was even here over my house last month after someone was robbed, shot and killed out front. The helicopter was here in seconds so it had to have already been flying on another mission. It was here before the police, firefighters or ambulance so I would say it is a valuable asset to Oakland’s Police Department and fighting crime. I also kind of miss the sound of the ghetto bird circling around at night. It’s something I grew up with. I remember when we were kids whenever the ghetto bird was over our hood we would purposely scatter and pretend to be running or hiding. It worked we got spotlighted one night and were all so happy but scared at the same time.
I do still here it on rare occasions smashing through the skies of Oakland at top speed so it is comforting to know that maybe that one will not get away.

Bring The Oakland Police Helicopter Back

The chopper used to fly about 1,200 hours a year but has been grounded for years and only able to fly in emergency situations. Since then robberies and other crimes have sky rocketed in Oakland. Like out of control.

One simple solution to budget cuts would to be to hop on board the drone train. Congress is forcing the FAA to open up US skies to drones for use by Government Agencies. I feel this could really help keep our budget under wrap and the streets safer. However there are many possible problems as discussed in this article.
But really drones are surveillance helicopters just like ARGUS is. So the only difference is it’s thousands of times cheaper to operate and we could have more covering more crimes as they happen. I really hope for this to clean up Oakland.

Update, Shot Spotter Cancellation Could Fund Helicopter
I think Jean Quan is reading my site. She finally says they need to get the police chopper back in the skies. But at what cost? She says they are going to scrape the infective(debatable) Shot Spotter Gun Fire Detection System and put that money towards getting the Oakland Police Helicopter off the ground and flying again. While obviously we need the helicopter up, can we afford to lose the shotspotter system? We have spent so much money on it, but I don’t know if it’s been worth it. It reportedly cost $264,000 a year and the cost of operating ARGUS is over $600,000 a year so it’s a start.
Oakland Police claim that it reports all of the gunshots but residents call them in anyways. However if you look at the data, Shot Spotter reports many more than residents report. And the officers get the report immediately, while they can be in the area instead of a garbled radio call 5 minutes later. Because most people call in on cell phones they must first go through California Highway Patrol Dispatchers and then to Oakland Police Dispatchers. Those several minutes make a huge difference. That system has to be fixed.
To tell you the truth, I stopped calling for gunshots unless I hear the actual person screaming now. Because A) they have Shot Spotter and B) Someone else will call. I know this to be true because I turn on the scanner after shots fired on or around my block and I listen.

Another Update:
The police helicopter has indeed been flying this last month of March. I have heard it on several occasions.

Is it really the Oakland Police Helicopter?
With all these new people in Oakland, I hear way to often reference to any helicopter in the sky as the ghetto bird.
People usually mistake News Choppers for the Oakland Police Helicopter. An easy sure fire way to tell the difference is the Police Helicopter will always circle around it’s targeted area like a Hawk or other bird of prey and at night have a spot light on.
News Helicopters will hover off in the distance usually at a much higher altitude. So I call these Humming Birds because that’s basically what they do. Hover and annoy you.

We used to have two helicopters from what I know and I have even found 2 pictures with two separate “N numbers”(A unique identifier issued by the FAA like a car licenses plate) so it seems we did or still have two. However I can not find any info stating that after the groundings and budget cuts we still have two. Please if you have any insight or something to share contact me.
But as of 2009 two choppers were grounded. So they may both be sitting there.
Ghetto Bird Oakland Police
This is what seems to be the current chopper with the N number N510PD. How funny right? Is it an 0 or an O? It works either way!

Oakland police helicopter chopper
And the maybe still second chopper with N number N220PD.
Photos taken by pointnshoot on flickr.


        • says

          I don’t think anyone knows where you live but in most cases you can tune into the Police Scanner and listen. Link above.

          Most of you moved here during a stretch when the Ghetto Bird was grounded due to funding so you just don’t know that there is constant crime in Oakland and it used to fly pretty much every day most of the day.

          Welcome back ARGUS!

  1. Grace G. Rebullida says

    They are still flying closely I am in the Glenview district one helicopter is white w red stripe and some kind of arm extended over. Then there is a second one and propeller plane flying closely. What is going on?

    • says

      Sounds like the California Department of Forestry Firefighter Helicopter.
      There was a rash of fires in the Oakland Hills yesterday, suspected arson.
      But because of the Fire Storm in the past they are likely keeping watch.

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