Manitoba

Winnipeg police helicopter's progress posted

Air-1, Winnipeg's police helicopter, went to nearly 2,000 calls and helped make 127 arrests in its first year, according to officials.
The Winnipeg Police Service's Air-1 helicopter has been operating since February 2011 and was involved in 127 arrests, according to a police report released Thursday. (CBC)

Air-1, Winnipeg's police helicopter, went to nearly 2,000 calls and helped make 127 arrests in its first year, according to officials.

The helicopter responded to 1,780 incidents between Feb. 1 and Dec. 11, 2011, according to the Winnipeg Police Service's report on Air-1's operations.

The report, released on Thursday, also notes that Air-1 went to an additional 192 events that were later cancelled or pre-empted.

The helicopter was dispatched as the prime police unit 652 times and helped ground patrol units make 127 arrests, the report says.

Since it was launched as the city's first police helicopter in February 2011, Air-1 has taken part in the investigation of traffic stops, break-ins, robberies, assaults and other incidents.

It also helped assess the impact of last spring's flooding of the Red and Assiniboine rivers in the city.

A nine-person crew operates the helicopter, including a chief pilot, two line pilots, four tactical flight officers, a patrol sergeant and an aircraft maintenance engineer.

Police Chief Keith McCaskill told reporters on Thursday that he thinks Air-1's first year has been a success.

But Insp. Mike Herman, who heads up the crew, acknowledged there were some challenges in its first year, including unscheduled repairs — the engine had to be swapped out a number of times — that grounded the chopper for days.

In April, some suggested that the police service add a second helicopter to its fleet, but city councillors said they wanted to see how Air-1 was doing first.

Police posted on YouTube some infrared video footage of various incidents involving the Air-1 helicopter.

"We're going to start putting out video regularly," McCaskill said.

"I think that's important to show the public what it does on a first-hand basis. Other jurisdictions do that, and we're going to start doing it as well."