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Chopper

PUBLISHED: 11:21 14 October 2008 | UPDATED: 21:31 05 July 2010

NEARLY 1,000 arrests have been made with the help of Suffolk police's helicopter since it was first launched eight years ago.

The aircraft has attended nearly 11,550 incidents since the force took possession of it in October 2000 - an average of 27 missions a week.

NEARLY 1,000 arrests have been made with the help of Suffolk police's helicopter since it was first launched eight years ago.

The aircraft has attended nearly 11,550 incidents since the force took possession of it in October 2000 - an average of 27 missions a week.

It has helped to make 949 arrests - including 220 in the past year - find 170 missing people and recover more than £2.7m of property.

And, despite running costs of more than £3,000 a day, the helicopter, which is being replaced next year, continues to provide “good value for money,” according to the force.

The officer in charge of the helicopter said it was used appropriately and only when needed, as too much “proactive” use of the aircraft only heightened fear of crime.

Sgt Ady Powell, who is head of the air operations unit at Suffolk police, said: “The helicopter is an important tool in the armoury of Suffolk police - it gives us massive benefits.

“We have become more experienced over the years and we can do better things with it. We are much more familiar with the kit and it has become a vital part of our modern day policing.

“We can do things much quicker than our land-based colleagues - we can search one square mile of open ground in 10 minutes, and it would take one officer 450 hours to do the same thing. We can provide that speed and efficiency.”

He said the helicopter can be in the air two minutes after a 999 call and could be called to deal with anything from a missing person to a high-speed pursuit.

Sgt Powell added that “99pc” of the flights were reactive, as it was found that proactive work could have a negative effect.

“It can give people a fear of crime that is artificial. When people see us they think 'why is the helicopter up, what's going on?' when we are just trying to reassure people.

“But we want to make the best use of our flights so when we are coming back from jobs, we will go over arterial routes, and it's easy to see what a difference that can make - the number of people who see us and slow down or put down their mobile phones.”

He said helicopter crews were conscious of high fuel costs but said the aircraft would never be grounded for that reason.

“If there is a need for a helicopter, we will be there. My crews are very good at making sure the tasks we are going on are entirely suitable.”

The helicopter is due to be grounded next year as new legislation means police operations will no longer be able to be carried out with the aircraft

The force's new helicopter is due to arrive in the UK later this month and the Eurocopter model - bought through a consortium deal with other police forces - will take to the air next summer.

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