Like the old Jetsons cartoon, the UH VAX computer cluster, called "Jetson," gives its users the edge of the future, with access to research information and the ability to communicate with other universities worldwide.

George Jetson's workday consisted of pushing a button. And as easily as pushing a button, any student with an account on Jetson can access software for many different applications.

Some of the software available includes computer-programming languages such as COBOL or SIMULA, engineering or math applications, database systems like ORACLE, CALCOMP graphics and even a chemical analysis system, CHEMTUTOR.

Jetson account-users have access to Sesquinet, which hooks together several Texas institutions to Internet. Users can send electronic mail to others anywhere in the world on Internet, an international computer-terminal network.

Jetson is also connected to BITNET, an international consortium consisting primarily of IBMs, THEnet, the Texas Higher Education network, and Usenet, a general news network.

Journalists and other newshounds have access to Newsreader and Vnews. Together, they compile worldwide events from 1500 different news groups, according to Howard Jares, manager of User Services for Academic Computing.

"The primary purpose of Jetson is for research and instructional use," Jares said.

"We have some top-notch consultants that live in the basement of the Heyne building (near the Quadrangle residence halls)," he said, but clarified that it was a figure of speech. "We have a hot line, 743-1587. Our operator can connect you to anyone you need."

"Graduate students from all over the world -- Japan, Hong Kong, Germany -- talk to each other," Jares said.

Students sometimes use it for talking. Academic and research subjects need the instant communication abilities of the networks. On the other hand, idle chatter or using it for recreational purposes is strongly discouraged.

"We'll send them mail and tell them they're abusing their resources," Jares said. If they don't stop, "then we'll call their instructor. If the instructor agrees they're abusing resources, we'll call the dean. And by that point, we'll have gone ahead and terminated their services."

However, electronic mail ensures privacy of communication. "We don't care what they do with mail," he said. "It goes into the background and doesn't interfere."

Computer enthusiast Steve Ryan said, "The naming (of Jetson) is idiosyncratic. Each node is named after every member of the (Jetson) family -- even down to the dog (Astro)."

Nodes are electronic points set in computer space domains. According to Ryan, the nodes have family names to indicate their relationship to each other. "In all the networks, the name `Jetson' stands out. The overtones of being futuristic is (sic) really cool, but it's a family, too. Jetson shows all these qualities."






Following recommendations by an outside accounting firm, UH administrators are implementing plans to revive UH's purchasing accountability.

In a report to the Board of Regents, Arthur Anderson and Co. recommended UH restructure its purchasing.

"We find that the Arthur Anderson report is a good report and are in the process of implementing it," said UH Senior Vice President of Administration and Finance Dennis Boyd.

"This (report) deals with some very fundamental, basic, internal controls. It's an excellent report, and it has been well-received by the Board of Regents, the Chancellor's office and my office.

"In the history of the last five or six years of financial difficulties, it's hard to argue that the system needs some improving," Boyd added.

UH reported on Nov. 1, 1990, a total of $5,141,547.16 in missing assets to the State Purchasing and General Services Commission.

Items which cost $500 and above are considered capital equipment, Ron Headley, head of Property Management, said.

"The management is concerned with capital equipment as defined by the state and keeps the inventory records for the university," Headley said.

Equipment that cost less than $500 is not on the department's inventory, he said.

"New equipment usually comes through our office (for inventory) after it is purchased," Headley said.

Property Management is currently putting bar codes on all new equipment for a more efficient inventory, he said.

The university has to conduct an annual inventory of all its equipment.

"The university is currently performing its annual inventory," Headley said. "We (Property Management) conduct 25 percent inventories (to check the count)."

"All agencies are required, under state law, to do an annual inventory," said Mark Smock, of the State Auditors Office (SAO). "Based on this inventory, they submit a deletion request (to the SAO)."

UH reports all losses to the SAO.

"Whenever they're (universities are) ready to delete items, they submit a form (with the missing items) for approval," Smock said. "Once it's in our office, we approve it, and they can delete off their inventory."

The SAO can investigate when it feels equipment losses are severe.

"We don't have a dollar threshold which automatically kicks in (when universities report losses)," Smock said. "We look for trends (in equipment losses)."

Items on the UH inventory are not depreciated.

"Governmental accounting does not record depreciation," Smock said. "Some universities calculate depreciation and use it when charging services."

When an item listed for $500 is sold for $20, the university can still delete it from its inventory and keep the money, Smock said.

If federal funds were used to buy an item, then the university must get permission to sell it to begin with, Smock said.

"But then the federal government will want its money back," Smock said. "Under the federal grant, usually title does not pass, and the money stays with the federal government."

If a piece of equipment is lost through negligence, the university has many options for reimbursement.

"They (the state) can't garnish wages, but travel warrants, (travel reimbursement) and similar payments can be used against any debt owed the state," Smock said. "This can be done because the state does not view them as wages. A lawsuit can be filed depending on the price of the item."

All UH property is assigned to departments instead of individuals, Headley said.






During a time of widespread campus cutbacks, UH, in a bid for academic enrichment, has approved the creation of the UH Honors College.

Several years in the making, the Honors College will expand on the opportunities already offered by the Honors Program.

Ted Estess, director of the Honors Program, is happy with the decision.

"We're very pleased. It's the culmination of a number of years of planning and the work of a large number of faculty members," he said.

Estess believes the greatest value of the new college will be to its students.

"It recognizes the gains made by the Honors Program over the years. The Honors College will help us to take advantage of the commitment the university made to undergraduate education.

The Honors Program got its start in 1960 as the Arts and Sciences Honors Program. The program's mission was to challenge academically gifted students.

Estess, who has been with the program for 15 years, believes UH students are still up to the challenge.

"Students are looking for a challenge," he said. "They're looking to perform at their highest level of capability."

According to Estess, however, reaching this point was not an easy task.

"I've been involved since the beginning of its planning as long ago as 1988," he said.

Another early participant in the college's formation was Harrell Rodgers, dean of the College of Social Sciences.

Rodgers created a task force which, in 1989, recommended the creation of an Honors College.

"They felt it was an excellent program, and it needed a more independent structure. They unanimously recommended it become a college because of the program's growth over time," he said.

At this point, the Honors College Committee, chaired by Estess, began preparing and circulating a plan which met with widespread approval.

"(The late UH President) Barnett was in favor of an Honors College and was looking into sources for additional funding," Estess said. "When she died, (current UH President) Pickering took over and took it to the Board of Regents."

Even though the proposal met with unanimous approval by the Board of Regents, it is waiting for approval by the Texas Coordinating Board for Higher Education (TCBHE).

Once approved by TCBHE, the college can begin planning the basics, such as staffing, funding and a start-up date.

Although he is pleased, Estess believes the transition may pose new problems for the fledgling Honors College.

"The challenge will be to provide a strong education to students in the Honors College and to provide the service needed to students and the campus-at-large, given the budget shortage facing the campus," he said.

Rodgers, however, believes the possible difficulties are small in contrast to the potential dividends for the university.

"I think it's very important for the university," he said. "Most honors students stay in the area and, of course, they do very well in their chosen fields. They become good spokespeople for the university."

John Bernard, an Honors Program professor, is less enthusiastic about the possible transition.

"I'm not sure how simply changing the name will make a difference, but I don't know what is planned.

"Of course it's a good sign," Bernard said, "but it may be only a sign, a sort of empty gesture."






When Cleo Glenn-Johnson spoke to two groups of Upward Bound participants, she became disappointed.

Most of the children had visions of entering the workplace as professionals. Only two had aspirations of forging into entrepreneurship. One of the two said he hoped his dream of working as an independent professional chef would come to fruition.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 37.2 percent of the black teenage population had no jobs as of last January. Glenn-Johnson, president of the Black United Fund of Texas -- an organization which assists various urban outreach programs such as Send A Kid to Camp through support and finances -- said if many of these children do not get jobs, apprenticeships and training, the chances of the black business community progressing further into the 21st century will be further diminished.

Glenn-Johnson said one problem plaguing the black business community is the way in which much of the spending power generated by blacks is directed toward other communities. Although $265 billion or 7 percent of the national money income is accounted for by blacks in 1990, businesses most likely received less than 20 percent of that total, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

The inability of the black business community to make substantial leaps in progress is one problem Clifton Richardson -- former editor of the Houston Informer newspaper and founder of the Houston Defender newspaper -- lamented in the 1920s. In a March 3, 1923, editorial, Richardson expressed his concern: "Like the mechanical hobby-horse or merry-go-round, which travels thousands of miles weekly in its rotations and just never gets any farther than its stationary metes and bounds, we are always on the run -- going to do something -- but never getting anywhere."

If Richardson had traveled through time into the 1990s, he would have reason to revise his statement. He would still, nevertheless, find some truth in it.

For example, as of June, of the 1,234 Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, which are certified to conduct business with the city of Houston, the highest number -- 417 or 33.8 percent -- are black-owned businesses. The remaining two-thirds of the total consists of Native American, Asian, Hispanic and white female-owned businesses.

In the area of economic development, Richardson might agree with Glenn-Johnson. "We don't provide that many jobs or services to our community. Other people doing business in our community could care less whether or not there is caretaking of the problems primarily because they look at it as a high-risk community," she said.

Glenn-Johnson advises the struggling black entrepreneurs to take steps to ensure longevity and success: become involved with more joint ventures, make strides toward ownership instead of renting or leasing tenancy and conduct campaigns to enhance the business' image.

Percy Creuzot III, owner of Frenchy's Sausage Co., said the problems he has faced are the same problems non-black entrepreneurs have encountered. "Our problems are due to the immense competition in the wholesale meat business, the small margins. Collecting money is a problem, with the number of bankruptcies and failed businesses," said Creuzot, who sells sausage products to restaurants, independent grocers and meat markets.

His company is one of three family-owned businesses, which includes his sister's catering service and the original Frenchy's Creole Fried Chicken and Sausage Co. While still in New Orleans, La., his grandfather and father worked in the family insurance business.

Creuzot, who considers his business financially successful "because of our repeat customers and repeat business," said he attributes none of his problems to his skin color. However, he did notice one problem that affects the economic situation in the black community: "Some of the financial problems in the black community could be solved if we supported each other more. If we did, I don't think we would need to reach outside the community for help."

Arthur Honore, assistant vice president of Texas Commerce Bank, said, "The problem many minority business owners have is that they don't deal with `friendly' banks." Honore said instead of advising them to seek loans from TCB, he regularly directs potential black entrepreneurs to Unity National Bank, the only black-owned bank in Houston.

"One problem that occurs in the black community is a tendency -- a problem that is less apparent in other communities -- to fall prey to the syndrome of wanting things now," he said. Honore said churches and other community entities need to work harder to build a stronger capital base and that children would probably be more interested in entrepreneurship if more schools offered a course in the subject.

Honore attributes part of the problem to integration. "Many of us started moving away from the cities, into the suburbs," he said, referring to the depletion of resources. Like Honore, Glenn-Johnson said a problem with self-worth further compounds the problem many black entrepreneurs have with keeping businesses open. "There is an underlying problem of us not trusting and doing business with each other. We believe somebody else's product is better," Glenn-Johnson said, referring to the problem that may stem from years of second-class citizenry and denigration.

Despite the problems, both Honore and Glenn-Johnson like to reminisce about the days when the black business community had more vitality. Such mainstays as the Ebony Ballroom, Angel's Fried Chicken and the plethora of stores played a large part in the lives of black people, she said. Honore said such successful, black-owned businesses as Gulf Coast Dodge, Onyz Asset Management, Bennie Ferrell Catering and Data Com offer hope for the future.






The mayor, other city officials and emotionally bitter citizens filled the Waldorf Astoria Room of the UH Hilton Monday to express their feelings to the Houston Regional Panel concerning the Texas Penal Code.

The panel is part of the Texas Punishment Standards Commission, which was created by House Bill 93, passed in the second session of the 72nd Legislature. The commission is charged with studying criminal justice laws and proposing solutions.

The meeting is the last in a series of 10 across the state, and the panel listened for three minutes to each citizen.

The members on the panel are state Sens. John Whitmire, D-Houston; Rodney Ellis, D-Houston; Jim Turner, D-Crockett; state Rep. Mark Stiles, D-Beaumont; County Court-at-law Judge Hannah Chow, state District Judge Larry Gist and Richmond resident Dora Olivo, a lawyer in private practice.

The last meeting of the full commission met in December 1991 to create subcommittees to distribute the workload.

Among the first public officials to speak, Mayor Bob Lanier proposed a 1 percent increase in the sales tax to expand prisons. An increase in capacity as a deterrent is needed, and the public is probably willing to spend, Lanier said. Chairing the meeting, Whitmire called for a show of hands in favor of a tax hike, and nearly all responded.

Applause came after the testimonies of Police Chief Sam Nuchia and Sheriff Johnny Klevenhagen. Nuchia said parole officers are overworked and consideration should be given to charging parole violators with felony escape. People want to see criminals work, Nuchia said. "Boot camps have a 93 percent success rate," Klevenhagen added.

Many citizens came on behalf of lost love ones to convey their concern on old, ineffective laws. With trembling voices, they delivered personalized testimonies of how they were victims of crime.

Rotating through lunch, the panel listened to hundreds of citizens.

Insurance industry workers, judges, police and property owners brought forth a multitude of issues. The rehabilitation of criminals and stronger DWI laws were also addressed.

Others criticized the panel for last-minute notice and a late start.

The current Texas Penal Code was adopted in 1973. The commission wants to restore public confidence and authority to the criminal justice system and is working to restore truth in sentencing. For example, under a truthful system, a criminal will serve at least 80 percent of his sentence as an inmate. Under the current system, a criminal serves about one month for every year. Keeping violent criminals in prison the longest and appropriately punishing property offenders are also goals.

Despite rumors, the commission has made no proposals and doesn't intend to until December, when it completes a full report. The decisions made will come down in 1994.






"Round `em up. Yee ha." Every student presently on a Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo four-year scholarship will receive an additional $500 per year for the remaining years of their scholarships.

"We owe so much of the success of the scholarship program to all of our volunteer committees as well as corporate sponsorships and community support," Dick Graves, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's show president, said. "We are able to raise all four-year scholarships to $10,000 from $8,000 and all one-year scholarships to $2,500 from $2,000."

In addition, 32 $10,000 scholarships were added to the metropolitan program for the 1993-94 school year. This brings the Houston-area commitment to 104 scholarships.

"I've had one surprise after another. I was nominated for a scholarship, I won it, and then I attended the scholarship luncheon on June 17 to learn of the increase," Cameron Brent Elam, a MacArthur High School graduate, said. "The scholarship will help me out a lot, and I thank God for all these blessings." Elam plans to attend UH this fall to major in physical therapy.

Scholarship recepient Angela Washington said "I had no idea about the increase until I attended the luncheon. I was so excited. It was great news." Washington graduated from Smiley High School, where she was a reporter. "I decided to major in journalism at UH and hope to write for a newspaper someday."

Since 1957, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has provided $28,566,368 in scholarships and other educational programs. The increase of $877,520 in the 1992 educational program is the largest increase in the show's 60-year history.






Ask anyone other than a physics major about superconductivity research going on under the roof of the $22.5 million UH Science Center, and you're likely to draw a blank stare.

"I don't know what they do in there," said Kim Lazorwitz, a senior business major. "All I know is Dr. (C. W. Paul) Chu made some great discovery, and they built him a nice building."

Pre-law student Jim Bartlett came the closest to having a layman's understanding.

"Superconductivity is the use of certain ceramics to conduct electricity more efficiently," he said.

Specifically, superconductivity is the flow of electrical current without resistance in certain metals and alloys.

High Temperature Superconductivity (HTS) is the discovery that prompted the Texas State Legislature to allocate funds for the creation of the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH (TCSUH) in 1987 with Chu as director.

By developing TCSUH, Texas formed the model for other research centers in New York, California, Florida and Massachusetts. With federal, state and private funding, TCSUH is the largest HTS center in the U.S.

In the past three years, the center has purchased more than $8 million in equipment to keep the laboratories competitive internationally.

One piece of equipment is a $250,000 "refrigerator" the cryogenics lab has been unable to use since its arrival early this spring. Due to its size, the equipment is still on the floor in its original crate, awaiting adjustments in the floor-to-ceiling height of the second-floor lab.

Researchers said they frequently have to modify other pieces of equipment -- with aluminum foil and copper wire -- in order to facilitate experiments they were not designed to handle. Requisitions for new equipment must be cost-justified and require time for approvals to be processed.

The applications of HTS are lucrative: an estimated $20 billion in defense, medicine, transportation, electronics and possibly, a more cost-efficient way to deliver electricity to consumers.

"As a result of a year of analysis, we're changing our research focus to respond more to industrial needs," said Susan Butler, TCSUH's associate director of public affairs.

TCSUH will also collaborate with NASA on space applications in 1993.

Marketing major Mike Lopez thinks the center's publicity has benefited UH.

"Dr. Chu has put UH in the spotlight," Lopez said. "I'm sure (his work) is worthwhile, or we wouldn't be spending money on it."






According to a recent report by the American Chemical Society, women in the field of chemistry are still struggling to find parity with their male counterparts on the issue of advancement in the workplace.

The ACS report states that while women's salaries have increased slightly in proportion to men's, their advancement into industry management and the upper echelons of academia has stagnated.

Between 1975 and 1991, the number of women chemists in industry management actually dropped to 12 percent from 13 percent while the 24 percent of women who were full professors in 1980 rose a modest 1 percent in 1991.

The report attributes the low promotion rate to "domestic constraints, i.e. presence of spouse or children, discriminatory attitudes at work and gender differences in career commitment."

Here at UH, the numbers are much worse.

From 30 faculty positions in the Department of Chemistry, only two are filled by tenured female professors, or about 7 percent.

Dr. Mamie Moy makes up one-half of that 7 percent and has been at UH for more than 35 years. Moy said many of the statistics in the report hold true for UH.

"The training that's available now is so highly specialized that the women have not had a chance to develop into these expertise areas that they want," Moy said. "Therefore, it cuts down on their chances of getting the positions that are being given to the men who have had more experience."

Age is also a determining factor for career attainment. According to the report, younger chemists expressed more interest in their careers than did older chemists.

Maggie Zamadics, a fourth-year graduate student, who professed to being "between my 20s and 30s," said, "I find (chemistry) challenging and interesting. Why else would (I) work 10 hours a day?"

Michelle Franzen, who at 27 will be attending graduate school in May, said, "Yes, I'm very interested. I've spent all this time working on my education, and I'm hoping it will pay off."

Moy, at 62, said she is ready for retirement.

The report also addressed sexual harassment and sex discrimination in the workplace. Thirty-three percent of the women surveyed said they had experienced sexual harassment personally, and 43 percent of the women said they had witnessed discrimination to the advantage of men.

Moy, who is Chinese, said her experiences with sexual harassment have been very subtle, but she attributes the way women are treated in the department to the different ethnicities represented within and the way their cultures view women.

"(The department) is a good-old-boy network," Moy said, "and with the few women here, there's not a good-old-girl network.

"Coming from a different ethnic background, I guess I accepted (being harassed) a little more because that's how I was raised, but I think professionally, it's just wrong."

For the report, 4200 surveys were mailed (2100 to each gender). Seventy-two percent of the women responded compared to 64 percent of the men.






The July 4 fireworks displays will be a sight to see for many people, but for some who have suffered firework-related eye injuries, such a sight may only be imagined.

A coaltion of health and safety groups have united to pressure state legislators to ban the sale and use of bottle-rockets- a firework that accounts for some 72 percent of eye injuries requiring hospitalization - because of injuries that have caused in the past.

Dr. M. Bowes Hamill, a member of the American Academy of Opthamology, said more that 10,000 people are expected to suffer from eye injuries due to the private use of class C fireworks.

"The most dangerous firework (which is illegal in Texas) is the bottle-rocket because people can shoot them at each other," Hamill said.

"One out of three people will suffer from permanent blindness in at least one eye." Another injury that can result from bottle-rockets is eyeball ruptures, and it takes approximately two to three hours of surgery to sew the eyeball back toether.

Other injuries are from sparklers or firecrackers which can result in the most common injuries - minor burns or scratches, he said.

Hamill said some 90 percent of people injured are usually bystanders and/or males 13 to 15 years old.

According to a news release from the Houston branch of the Texas Society to Prevent Blindness, $24 million was spent last year to treat firework vicitms in hospital emergency rooms.

Marita Gomez, a media reations manager form the National Branch of the TSPB said although most Class C fireworks -- except bottle-rockets -- don't impose serious threats to one's health, parents should prohibit their children from using them.

"If you wnat to see fireworks, see them at a public display," Gomez said.

fireworks lit up as stars, flags, and wheels, for example, she said.

According to Cohen, before a permit to use Class B fireworks is approved by a fire marshall, an

individual must have a suitable site to shoot the fireworks, be at a distance from buildings and spectators, and submit a diagram of the exact location.

The permit takes approximately 14 days to obtain, and costs $250 within the Houston city limits and $50 outside, Cohen said.

James Lensing of A.A. Quality, said other firework classes are A and D.

"Class A is the use of atomic bombs; anything the military uses. Class D is matches and toy devices," he said.

Lensing said the most common type of firework sold is the fountains. "They look like volcanoes that light up."

With all of the different types of fireworks that will be displayed during this Independence holiday, the need for pyro-technicians is great.

Cohen, who said that she married into the firework business when she married her husband more than 50 years ago, said her staff has increased to some 200 from an average of six to eight people due to the holiday.

"We will do at least 50 displays around Texas on July 4." Each show takes about 25 minutes, she said.

Walter Johnson, a registered nurse and an emergency room assistant nurse manager at Ben Taub hospital, said, although firework injuries are increased around July 4 and New Year's Eve holidays, "Everybody gets a kick out of it."

Gomez said she doesn't think that's an excuse for unlicensed pyro technicians to use fireworks.

"You only have one pair of eyes. If you lose your sight, you lose the ability to see public fireworks in the future," she said.

For information regarding public firework displays around Houston call the Parks and Recreation department at 845-1102.






UH was asked to return almost $1 million to one of the school's biggest benefactors after the university decided to accept a new plan and location for the proposed Alumni Center.

LeRoy Melcher had donated funds for the old location of the center, on Cullen and Elgin Streets, while John Moores, another benefactor, chose to support the new location as part of the new athletic facility..

Melcher said he requested his donation be returned because "the university has determined to go a different direction in the construction of the Alumni Center," according to a letter from Melcher to Chancellor Alexander Schilt on June 2.

The Board of Regents last week voted to return the funds.

Melcher, who has donated extensively to UH in the past and has several buildings on campus named for his contributions, decided the "the kind of building we're putting up is not the one he originally gave his money for," said Frank Holmes, executive vice president of the UH Alumni Organization.

Melcher originally donated his funds to help build a facility slated to cost about $5 million, with a $2 million commitment from Melcher, said Richard Levy, director of Communications for UH.

Melcher supported the original placement and design of the building, while Moores supported a plan for a smaller alumni center to be located adjacent to, and as part of, the new athletic facility he is funding.

The Board of Regents approved the new plan, funded by Moores, last week. Moores last year donated over $25 million to build the athletic center as part of a larger donation to UH and has agreed to incorporate the 18,000 square foot alumni center within it. The facility will house meeting rooms, a gift shop, and a memorabilia room.

"We were really afraid that we would look like we were telling one major benefactor that we didn't want their help. It was a shame that we had to accept one at the expense of the other," Holmes said.

The cost of the originally proposed, 45,000 square-foot building, which had Melcher's support, was calculated at $177 per square foot and grew to almost $8 million. Combined with a state policy requiring all new buildings to have endowments for maintenance, the endowments and cost would have totaled almost $16 million, Levy said.

Despite Melcher's $2 million commitment to the building,

the rest of the funds were not available. Because no student fees, tuition or state funds are going toward the construction, the money would have had to be raised solely through donations, Holmes said.

"Both men (Melcher and Moores) definitely had a strong opinion about what kind of building they wanted," Holmes said. "Melcher had every reason to ask for his money back -- it's a donor's money, and he has the right to decide how the money ought to be used. I'm sure he has other interests and charities he feels will benefit from the money."

Construction is scheduled to begin on the new alumni facility next April.






The Houston Police Department's Helicoptor Patrol Unit, which generally goes unnoticed, is preparing to handle the more important security duties of the upcoming 1992 Republican National Convention.

"When the president comes to town, we have a lot of responsibility," Sgt. Gary Daniels said.

The unit is currently looking for a location near the Astrodome, site of the convention, to set up a temporary unit and landing pad. The unit plans to provide non-stop aerial surveillance for the convention and any demonstrations.

"We will be taking some dignitaries around," Daniels said.

The unit works closely with the Secret Service any time President Bush or Vice President Quayle come to town. It provides aerial surveillance of Ellington Air Force Base prior to the landing of Air Force One.

A large part of the helicopter patrol unit involves drug surveillance and assisting ground units, Daniels said.

"We operate in a different atmosphere than the rest of the departments," he said.

Daniels said because the unit is extremely effective in drug enforcement, more than half its budget is funded by HPD's narcotics division with confiscated assets. The department recently added two new 500 McDonnell-Douglas E models -- each at a cost of $750,000 -- which brought the fleet to a total of 11 helicopters.

The unit stays alert 24 hours a day and has a relationship with about 40 cities, Daniels said, ensuring support from other facilities when needed. Daniels, who has been with the unit since 1973, recalled a request from Montgomery County for an aerial search to locate a pilot who had crashed his ultra-light plane.

He said the search was demanding but successful, and the unit called life-flight to finish the job.

A helicopter from the unit flies 20 hours every day, patrolling about 630 square miles inside Houston's city limits, Daniels said. On routine patrols, they often spot stripped stolen cars and people on rooftops trying to break into buildings, he said.

Officer Jim Lowery, one of the pilots, said the unit is divided into teams, each of which goes up for two hours. He said a team was just looking for a man with a gun around northeast Houston.

Although they make few arrests, the unit patrols from the air much like a police car patrols from the streets.


Visit The Daily Cougar