More than 500 people were arrested in 2012 – who would otherwise have got away had it not been for the West Midlands Police helicopter.
The helicopter, known to officers on the street by its call sign ‘Alpha Oscar 1’, has taken off 1,362 times this year and has been involved in 3,698 incidents. Using a vast array of technology, the helicopter assists police on the ground on a daily basis, whether it’s tracking suspects or searching for missing people.
In 2012, AO1 spent 1,175 hours in the sky and was responsible for finding 27 people who had been reported missing. Sergeant David Mitchell said: “The key part of our success is in our ability to track people and find property from the sky.
“It takes such a short amount of time for us to search an area that it really pays off for the officers on the ground – who are then freed up to carry out more urgent tasks.”
In September a group of oraganised metal thieves from the Black Country were jailed after being tracked by the helicopter. The gang, who were thought to have stolen more than £31,000 worth of property from businesses across Wolverhampton and Dudley, were sentenced to a total of five years and four months in prison.
Earlier this month a 40-minute pursuit across Birmingham, assisted by AO1, ended with the arrests of three people for burglary. All three were later charged with burglary and the case is progressing through court. But it’s not just about crime – the police helicopter also acts as casualty transportation in life or death situations, when the air ambulance cannot work at night.
Throughout the last 12 months, the AO1 team has been regularly updating residents across the West Midlands about their activities via a dedicated Twitter account – @WMP_Helicopter. It was set up to allow people to see where the helicopter has been and why it’s been there.
Sgt Mitchell added: “We tweet regularly about the incidents we’ve been involved with and try to give as much information as possible without jeopardising any investigations or court proceedings.
“People often want to know why we’ve woken them up in the early hours of the morning, which is understandable and we hope that our Twitter account helps them understand the nature of the incidents we attend.
“The overwhelming response from our community is that they welcome the assistance the aircraft gives.
The aircraft is financed to fly for 1,400 hours every year, which is an average of only four hours every day.
See footage from the helicopter below: