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Europe's police prize helicopters in successful fight against crime
Europe's law enforcement organisations continue to upgrade their fleets.

Europe's law enforcement organisations continue to upgrade their fleets. The Ministry of Justice of Cyprus has placed an order for two AW139 medium twins for law enforcement and SAR operations. This follows a previous order by the ministry of defence of Cyprus in December 2008 for three AW139s. The ministry says that the 15-seat AW139 provides good performance even in demanding hot and high conditions. "The availability of modular role kits allows easy and quick conversion to and from various configurations," the ministry says.

The UK government's home office ministry says the purchase of six new police EC135P2is through a £5m capital grant for air support is part of the first joint procurement by six UK police forces - Suffolk, Cheshire, North Wales, Cleveland, Midlands and Chilterns.

Though each of the six forces will receive a new EC135P2i they will be used by up to a total of 18 neighbouring police forces as part of regional consortia, including a Midlands regional collaboration pilot project, to trial more efficient joint police air operations. The home office says the EC135P2s will feature the latest airborne law enforcement and police reconnaissance and surveillance systems as well as inter-operable communications. Daylight and thermal imaging cameras, Nightsun search lights, video down-link system and Tetra radios will allow easy communication both with police on the ground and with the other emergency services, it says.

UK police forces say that helicopters are increasingly useful in fighting crime. Inspector Gary Smart, new unit executive officer with South and East Wales Police, has taken charge at the air support unit based in St Athan. He dubs the EC135T2i as the force's most sophisticated crime-fighting tool. "Police aviation is no longer just responsive, for example, searching for missing people and following car chases," he says. "It is also proactive - using sophisticated surveillance techniques including recording, filming and photographing." He adds: "The Star Safire Camera is the jewel in the crown. It has four camera capabilities and can clearly record suspects and incidents from miles away, so we can help colleagues on the ground make an arrest and then provide the footage for evidence in court to secure a conviction."

The helicopter has already recovered £3.7 million worth of property, including illegal drugs, in the last year, carried out 350 missing people searches, 192 vehicle theft searches, made 156 arrests, 150 burglary searches, 136 police photography missions, forced 75 criminals into a corner enabling easy arrest, 71 drugs-related call-outs, 64 vehicle pursuits, found 50 missing people, 25 theft from vehicle searches, 19 public safety threat call-outs, and participated in 18 pre-arranged police operations. The increasing use of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft by police is providing useful business for private charter operators.

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