GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers described the plane his deputies use on a weekly basis to stop violent criminals, take guns and drugs off our streets and find missing people as a life-saving tool.

Now, he wants a new one and needs the county commissioners’ approval to get it.

Pilots take out the sheriff’s office’s current plane three to four times per week. It seats two, needs a new engine and is expensive to repair. The sheriff wants a newer, four-seater plane, which would cost about $300,000.

Lieutenants at the controls said it’s necessary for their success.

“We’re using this tool to directly save and improve the lives of the citizens,” First Lieutenant David Cook said. “We could not do it at a high level … without the airplane.”

Cook has flown in the plane nearly 100 times. He shared how the airplane helped in a Stokesdale robbery where a lady got shot in her car.

“I was able to observe that that offender had run out of the perimeter, but I saw him in the field,” Cook said. “I was able to direct officers there, and we were able to apprehend him.”

GCSO: Airplane support helpful in solving crime

Since 2019, the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office has taken more than 12,000 pounds of narcotics and nearly 600 guns off the streets because of aerial surveillance.

“That directly helps people,” Cook said. “It also helps reduce the wear and tear on emergency services … If we take drugs off the street with them, people are not overdosing. If we take guns off the street, which we have proven we are doing, people are not getting shot by them.”

Deputies pushed to prove their point on how a new plane protects the community, helps with limited manpower and will save the department money.

County commissioners questioned it.

“It seems like there are 98 or 99 counties across the state who do not have a plane, so I’m just curious about how does the rest of the state handle these operations,” said Commissioner Mary Beth Murphy, who represents District 4.

Cook used that as another reason the plane is needed, claiming they fly for other local departments who need help with their investigations. He told commissioners the current plane is nearing its end.

“It might not happen this week,” he said. “It might not happen next week, but the plane will get grounded if we do not put the new engine in it.”

Guilford County commissioners have asked the sheriff and his team to go back and explore options for leasing a new plane. If a lease or purchase is approved, the sheriff’s office will sell the current plane.

The important thing to note is the money for the plane would not come out of taxpayers’ pockets. 

Rogers wants to use federal forfeiture funding to pay for it.