POLICE chiefs have hailed their force’s helicopter after it attended 632 incidents and helped make 129 arrests in just three months.
The figures, from July to August this year, are 54 per cent higher than during the same period in 2010.
In Hartlepool, the state-of-the-art chopper helped track a stolen vehicle, find a missing woman and stop a burglary.
Cleveland Police Authority chairman Peter Race said: “The figures certainly demonstrate just how important air support now is in tackling crime, catching offenders and protecting life and limb.
“What’s more, it is extremely cost effective.
“Just between July and September, the use of the aircraft resulted in the equivalent of 170,315 officer hours being saved across the force, equating to a cost saving of over £2m compared to officers on the ground being deployed to the same incidents.”
The Eurocopter aircraft, which is said to be the most advanced in the world, came into operation early this year.
The authority received a Home Office grant of 40 per cent towards the £5m aircraft, along with a £1m guaranteed minimum ‘trade in’ payment for its former helicopter.
Temporary Chief Constable of Cleveland Police, Jacqui Cheer, said: “The helicopter really is a vital tool in finding people quickly – this can either be vulnerable missing people or criminals who are captured and brought to justice.
“It also enables the force to make massive efficiency savings in terms of officer hours, which means that resources can be directed to where they are most needed.”
Examples of incidents attended by the air support unit in Hartlepool during the period include it following a stolen vehicle, on August 15, into Seal Sands Industrial Estate and capturing video evidence and helping arrest four people.
On September 2, the aircraft was tasked to search for a woman who had been reported as vulnerable and missing by her husband.
The crew found her lying hidden in the dunes at North Gare, before they landed and gave first aid until officers and ambulance staff arrived.
Just under three weeks later, on September 21, the helicopter was deployed to a burglary in progress at Bruce Crescent.
The crew were able to fly high enough to be inaudible on the ground and captured two people allegedly trying to get into the rear door of a house.
Officers were then directed to a nearby out-house where two suspects were arrested.