Campaign to save ‘eye in the sky’ is taking off

Herts Police Chopper

Herts Police Chopper

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A SOCIAL media campaign to stop the county’s police helicopters from being axed is gaining momentum with hundreds of followers signing up to save the service.

As part of a national scheme the helicopters serving the county’s police force will be grounded in a bid to save around £175,000 a year.

Local forces would instead rely on the National Police Air Service (NPAS) providing support from neighbouring forces, with Hertfordshire theoretically paying less per year towards air support.

At the moment county crimefighters can call on two helicopters, managed through the Chilterns Air Support Unit (ASU).

The ASU is an arrangement with Thames Valley and includes one aircraft based at RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire.

But under NPAS, RAF Henlow could now be closed as early as October this year.

The Facebook group Save the Herts. and Beds Police Helicopter now has more than 500 followers.

A spokesman for the campaign said: “This scheme will see police getting no real air coverage here, and that is in return for no real financial saving.

“Without our helicopter, crime rates will rise, and relying on help from neighbouring counties is impractical.

“The Metropolitan police haven’t signed up to NPAS, and other bases such as Southend are too far away to provide any real support.”

The Herts Police Authority signed up to NPAS in autumn last year, but its chief executive Andrew White says a final decision will not be made until the authority is convinced that there is a good balance between the level of service and the savings on the table.

He said: “We share many of the concerns that the campaign group has.

“I don’t see how we could support NPAS without reassurances about the use of the Met’s helicopter.”

A decision is expected to be made next month.

Prudent saving or an open door to crooks? Let us know your view, email thegazette@jpress.co.uk