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police helicopter crash

This twin-engine police helicopter experienced “tail rotor failure in the hover whilst observing the scene below” in the Whitchurch neighbourhood of Cardiff, South Wales, in April 2000. official report


Deputation to the join Budget Committee/Policy and Finance Committee Meeting

February 23, 2001

Helen Armstrong,                Stop the Choppers             helena@web.ca

I am speaking on behalf of Stop the Choppers. We are a citizens based organization with many members across Toronto. We have received numerous complaints from residents about the police helicopter project. The complaints focus on noise, invasive surveillance and waste of City funds based on lack of any evidence that helicopters reduce crime. Our organization shares these concerns.

Stop the Choppers is very opposed to any use of helicopters for policing in Toronto. Police statistics show that crime in this City is at a 25 year low. We therefore can’t justify spending money on helicopters. Toronto does not need night-time military style surveillance. We are not Bosnia, or even Los Angeles. Our research shows that in an emergency, helicopters can be borrowed from the OPP or RCMP, usually for free.

A new London, Ontario study, The Eye in the Sky: Evaluation of Police Helicopter Patrols: The London Police Service Helicopter Research Project  – the first to measure outcomes with police helicopters – found that crime rates did not go down with helicopter use.

The issue of noise remains a huge problem, no matter how expensive the helicopter that is purchased. A study commissioned by the Toronto Police Services Board in 1997 found that “The only thing that can kill a police helicopter program faster than money is noise.” Police helicopters wake residents up at all hours of the night. The resulting sleep deprivation leads to mental and physical health problems. As early as 1989, Health and Welfare Canada linked noise to health problems: “Day and night, at home, at work and at play, noise can produce serious physical and psychological stress. No one is immune to this stress.” A 1999 Natural Resources Defence Council study found that helicopters hovering over residential areas pose a health hazard. This study also found that residents perceive helicopters to be twice as noisy as airplanes, due to their distinctive noise and vibrations.

Helicopters are expensive, running into the millions of dollars. There are hidden costs, such as higher fuel prices, repairs, hangars, training and insurance. Police dollars are better spent putting more officers on the beat, working together with our communities.

The City is faced with huge budget pressures. Let us choose to spend City money on programs that actually prevent and reduce crime – free recreation programs, improved community centres, public pools and libraries. Toronto residents don’t want to trade these important social programs, as well as the TTC and dental services for low-income children and seniors, for police helicopters. If we allow these vital services to be cut, we will likely be faced with more crime.

It is important to note that some American cities have decided not to have police helicopters, largely because of noise and financial concerns. And some U.S. cities that have had helicopters have abandoned them.

I urge you to vote against police helicopters for Toronto.

The police helicopter seems designed as an in-your-face sign of intimidation.” John Sewell, Eye

A police helicopter in Nassau County,
New York demonstrating a low altitude pursuit.