A NEW service to provide 24-hour air support for the police has been launched.
Hampshire Constabulary has started operating as part of the new National Police Air Service (NPAS), which means the force will be sent the nearest available helicopter, wherever that may be.
Previously, if either of the South East Air Support Unit’s (SEASU) helicopters were out on operations or undergoing maintenance, there was no set policy to ensure another would be sent to assist.
Under the new initiative, police air support will cost around 20 per cent less than the cost of the current provision and the helicopter fleet will be reduced from 31 aircraft to 25 plus three in reserve to provide cover.
The changes will increase overall air support availability nationally by eight per cent and the whole of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight will receive air support within 20 minutes.
NPAS will be introduced transitionally, starting with the South East region today (Monday), and will be rolled out completely across England and Wales by 2015.
Assistant Chief Constable John Campbell said: "The National Police Air Service will be a strong, operationally resilient service and will come at less cost to the taxpayer.
"Under NPAS, every force will have fast and easy access to air support unrestricted by force geography and, through collaboration, even if one helicopter is already out on deployment, another one will always be available.
"This is another step towards a more joined-up approach to policing and will ensure continuity in the quality of air support across all forces."