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New national police air service launched at Redhill Aerodrome
10:49am Tuesday 2nd October 2012 in Local News
The new National Police Air Service (NPAS) took to the skies this week in a high-profile launch at Redhill Aerodrome.
The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice Damien Green MP joined the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) lead for NPAS, Chief Constable Alex Marshall, at the airfield yesterday.
Redhill Aerodrome is one of the first NPAS bases to be launched throughout England and Wales and so is at the forefront of what is hoped will be a big step forward in the fight against crime.
ACPO have said the new service will provide a more efficient and accessible air support service that offers better value for money.
Delivered under the first National Collaboration Agreement between policing bodies in England and Wales, NPAS will provide a national border-less service, making use of the nearest aircraft.
ACPO have stated that this will mean the police service's response will, in many cases, be better than at present.
It will provide an air service to 98% of the population of England and Wales within 20 minutes.
Redhill Aerodrome is one of the first of 23 strategic locations, with 25 aircraft providing the operational capability to deliver an enhanced service, with an aircraft being available 24 hours a day. Reserve aircraft will be provided when aircraft are offline for scheduled maintenance.
ACPO have stated NPAS will deliver a more cost effective service, balancing the need to save money against the need to ensure the police service has a quickly deployable asset that can be used to tackle crime and protect the public.
Previously, air support in England and Wales was mainly delivered locally and independently, with 30 Police Air Support Units (ASU), operating 33 aircraft.
It is anticipated that NPAS will save up to £15 million a year compared to the previous arrangements when all forces join NPAS. Longer term, further savings are expected through improved operational and organisational efficiencies and moving to an optimised fleet, reducing maintenance and training costs. NPAS will be implemented in a regional phased approach starting from this month and running through to January 2015.
The ACPO-led project team has been supported by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) and the Home Office in setting up the scheme, following the findings of a comprehensive review commissioned in 2009, in which ACPO and individual Police Authorities approved the scheme.
Chief Constable Marshall said: “Plans for this improved service have been in the pipeline for three years and I’m delighted that today will mark the first phase of implementation of an improved service for the public of England and Wales that will result in significant financial savings.” He said: “Artificial boundaries have meant that helicopters are restricted to operating within their own force area or consortia. “A truly national, border-less service will ensure effective coverage of urban and rural areas. “NPAS will provide the deployment of the nearest available aircraft and have reserve aircraft available when aircraft are offline for maintenance.”
Mr Green said: “I am very pleased to welcome the launch of the National Police Air Service. “It will create the first national, border-less air service for the police, vastly improving current provisions. “This is a great example of police working together to improve services for the public while saving money.”
He said: “This new police-led, Government-supported scheme will keep 98% of people in England and Wales 20 minutes or less from police air support and will save up to £15 million a year. “NPAS shows police forces working together can drive down costs.” Councillor Brian Greenslade, The Association of Police Authorities (APA) lead on Air Support, said: “The National Police Air Service has the potential to deliver better public protection at lower cost.”
He said: "From catching criminals to ensuring the safety of crowds, helicopters and other means of air support are essential tools in the fight against crime, but they are costly and in some areas used infrequently. “This programme should ensure that forces retain the right capability to call on air support to protect the public whilst sharing its considerable costs.” ACPO is an independent, professionally-led strategic body which, in the public interest and in equal and active partnership with Government and the Association of Police Authorities, leads and co-ordinates the direction and development of the police service in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and which in times of national need, co-ordinates the strategic policing response.