The Salt Lake County sheriff's military surplus helicopter has been gussied up with radio, lights, new paint and the right parts - and now it's ready to go fight crime.

The helicopter will work its maiden shift as a police helicopter March 1.It will fly at least eight hours a day on varying shifts. The department will rely on its assistance in crime prevention, search and rescue, surveillance and chases, said Sgt. Craig Tame said. The helicopter will also respond to reports of crimes in progress.

"Rescue operations are one of the most important aspects of a helicopter," Tame said. "Last year we had about 100 search-and-rescue operations. A helicopter would have benefited us on almost all of them. We're one of the few agencies in the United States that doesn't have any air support."

The county bought the helicopter nearly a year ago. "It has been slowly refurbished, outfitted and thoroughly checked so we know it will be flyable."

Lt. Ben Anjewierden and Deputy Steve Taylor will pilot the craft.

"Both have extensive military background in helicopter flying," Tame said.