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Thursday, 3 December 2009

'Copter Chatter

A good article by Dan Lett today in the FreeP about the whole police chopper 'debate'.
Lego Police Chopper: $12.99

I'm in the middle on the issue. If there's evidence that indicates that having a police helicopter in a city this size with streets versus freeways and one of the largest tree canopies in N. America will have an impact crime I'd certainly consider it, perhaps even support it.
Skyline of Trees !
The issue has been around for a few years now and there has been little in the way of good evidence trucked out. Similar to the waterpark issue that inexplicably manages to rocket to the top of the city's agenda every year or so, the police chopper issue does the same (and why a police over a fire/paramedic or an ambulance chopper ?).

My gut feeling is that this is a case of "do something - ANYTHING" that we often get when it comes to crime. Helicopter is big, sexy, noisy, expensive - it simply HAS to have an impact. (Furthermore, if you're not on the bandwagon you're simply soft on crime).

Real Police Chopper $1m

I checked out Edmonton's Police site - a similar city with a helicopter. Under the topic "Benefits of a Police Helicopter" it does say that their "Air One" is handy for police chases and to instruct ground forces at a crime scene but it also contains such vague gems that sound like they came straight out of a police helicopter supplier sales brochure:

Pressing crime issues such as gang violence, armed robberies, and property crimes (such as auto theft) can be addressed in part by the addition of a technologically advanced public safety tool, such as a police helicopter.

By acting as a "resource multiplier," a police helicopter can enhance public safety and officer safety, with the added benefit of increased public confidence in the abilities of the Edmonton Police Service to make an impact on crime in Edmonton.


Toronto HAD a police helicopter but it was shelved in 2001 after a city auditor's report concluded:

The report found it would cost about $2.5 million annually for a fully equipped helicopter that included surveillance and monitoring cameras, infrared devices to locate people or objects by heat imaging, a 30 million-candlepower searchlight, and crew.

The chopper did have public support, though. In an Environics poll prior to the auditor's report being released found 87% favoured police helicopters.

People like them. Politicians like them. So-called 'tough on crime' people like them. Perhaps that's all of the evidence we're going to get need that they're a good idea for the police.

Updates:
Boots on Ground Better than Helicopters in the Air WFP Dec 12
Helicopter Set To Fly - WFP Dec 15
Could helicopter have saved a life? WFP Dec 16
Council Approves Police Helicopter CBC Dec 16

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm a tough on crime person and I hate the idea of a helicopter - it's a lousy excuse to spend millions to make the City look like it's doing something, when it could be spending the money on real cops instead.

What a waste.

cherenkov said...

You ask: why a police over a fire/paramedic or an ambulance chopper? That's a good question. We have seen evidence of the benefits of a ambulance chopper. I wonder if there is any potential to equip a police chopper for occasional emergency medi-vacs? A dual purpose chopper might cost more initially, but we could get more out of it.