Counties pioneer national police ’copter service

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SUFFOLK and Norfolk police helicopter is among the first to join a National Police Air Service (NPAS).

Under NPAS, which came into being on Monday, instead of each force having its own helicopter service, 25 aircraft based at 23 locations will eventually provide nationwide cover.

The south-east is the first area to become active. The Suffolk and Norfolk helicopter, currently at Wattisham but moving to Honington, joins those at Boreham Wood, Essex; Redhill, Surrey, and Benson, Oxfordshire, to cover an area from the Wash to the south coast and Oxfordshire. The network will be complete by January 2015.

Sgt Julian Bosley, who has served with the Suffolk helicopter since 2006 having joined the Benson crew in 1999, said: “Nationally, it has been contentious because there are bases closing, but in this region bases were closing before NPAS came along. It’s secured provision of air services for this area.

“There’s a great deal to work out yet to get it all up and running perfectly, but I think it’s the right direction to be going in.”

When Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex all had helicopters, the region was first to set up a joint air control room. “It was one of the experiments that led to this,” Sgt Bosley said.

He added: “This extends the area from which we can get cover. We have always had a mutual agreement with Essex, but that now applies all over the country.”

NPAS will have two spare machines to give immediate cover if needed.