Opinion: Keep the Eagle in Canterbury

Police Eagle helicopter.  Photo: Supplied
Police Eagle helicopter. Photo: Supplied
Long may the police Eagle helicopter stay in Canterbury.

It has been an outstanding success so far in its five-week trial which began last month.

The chopper has assisted in many catches.

In South Brighton, a handful of men were spotted at a property, some on the roof – clearly suspicious.

Eagle was called in and from above was able to direct police on the ground to catch the suspects.

The same happened in Lincoln at the weekend. Three cars were spotted by a member of the public at a property, again suspicious. The police were called, the chopper was dispatched to the location and the alleged offenders, knowing it was above, shot through.

When there is a chopper in the air it is hard to hide. The routes the vehicles took were easy to see and police patrols on the ground stopped and arrested the burglary suspects.

It is not only crime Eagle has been fighting. It has helped rescue a surfer and also attended to a man who had a suspected heart attack in a park.

Eagle is based in Auckland, where it is part of the policing furniture.

It was also used to watch over the eastern suburbs after the February 22, 2011, quake.

There was no electricity for weeks in parts of the east. Darkness was a perfect cover for the burglars who preyed on abandoned homes, and some which were still occupied.

The chopper with its lights and infrared camera would patrol above looking for suspicious activity and then direct police on the ground.

It was a welcome intrusion to the usual disrupted night’s sleep in the weeks after the quake, something I came to learn at first hand.

There were many noises during the night over and above the aftershocks. The footprints in the liquefaction the following morning were evidence a prowler had been about. My dog which I had kept close at hand, barking, was also a giveaway.

At times, I’d decide, potentially foolishly, to take matters into my own hands. I’d hear a noise outside. I would let the dog out and I would follow just behind. But whoever had been there was fairly slippery and had disappeared into the darkness.

Then later you would hear the chopper return from another part of the eastern suburbs, and knowing it was about you could doze off for a bit of sleep.

The Eagle trial ends on March 20 when it will be determined if there is a need for a permanent helicopter in Canterbury and the South Island. 

A no-brainer in my view.

barry@starmedia.kiwi

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