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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


Toronto Star. Page B2. Jan. 15, 2002

City resident wants 'copters to fly away
Battle with police could hinge on March report

By Brian McAndrew
Staff Reporter

There's nothing so unsettling...whompa, whompa, whompa...on a quite
summer's night...whompa, whompa, whompa...when the bedroom windows are
wide open to catch a cooling breeze...whompa, whompa, whompa...than the
annoying, chattering clamour of a police helicopter hovering overhead.

Helen Armstrong knows the feeling.

She was jolted awake after midnight last August by the noise from a police
helicopter above her Bloor West Village home.

"I heard this horrible noise. I didn't know what it was," Armstrong
recalled. "Then I saw it was a helicopter. It hovered around and went away
and then came back and hovered some more. It lasted about half an hour."

After a restless night, Armstrong started an anti-police helicopter campaign.

It has been an uphill battle for the grassroots Stop the Police
Helicopters group, trying to take on the might of police officials and
city politicians whom she says are determined to turn the six-month test
project into a permanent addition to Toronto's sky at night.

"We have no budget but a lot of e-mail connections," said Armstrong, who
also passes out small pamphlets encouraging people to protest by calling
city councillors and a special city hall phone hotline (416-392-3712) set
up to take police helicopter comments.

Mayor Mel Lastman has vowed the pilot project that ends this month will
become a permanent patrol in the sky, something police Chief Julian
Fantino wants to put his department into the big leagues with New York
city, Los Angeles and Canadian cities Calgary, Vancouver and Montreal.

Proponents argue that helicopters are an essential policing tool –
improving the effectiveness of officers on the ground by providing
lighting when searching for suspects, lost people and stolen vehicles.

It will take at least $2 million to keep the par of Bell 206 Jet Rangers
flying by night, a glaring figure in the city's coming budget debate.
Lastman has already said he hopes to keep a property tax hike below 5 per

Armstrong, though, fears that police in Toronto get what they want –
especially when helicopters have already been promised by Lastman even
before the city auditor evaluates the pilot project in what is supposed to
be an objective report to city council in March.

"These priorities are out of whack when crime rates are at a 20-year low,"
Armstrong said." It seems like a Hollywood movie approach to

The city has received 250 complaints about helicopter noise, says Tony
Veneziano, director of audit services who is overseeing the preparation of
the helicopter report.

The complaints have ranged in intensity from some who wondered by
Toronto needs a helicopter patrol to others who are very angry and they
don't feel a helicopter is needed in the city, Veneziano said.

The police have received what they describe as 190 “noise inquiries” after
local residents were disturbed by the air-whapping sounds generated by the
helicopter's twin blades and tail rotor.

Investigation showed 28 of the complaints were about helicopters other
than those operated by the police department, said Sergeant Mike
Schueller, head of the air support unit.

Another 75 were satisfied after police explained the purpose of the
helicopter patrol, Schueller said. One midtown resident, living in an area
where much of the opposition exists, even wrote: “I'm sure glad they're

Schueller says the helicopter has been instrumental in arrests in 86
cases. He could not determine if the helicopter played the most important
role or if the captures would have been made anyway by routine police work
on the ground.

Armstrong has devoted much of her opposition to helicopter patrols by
focusing on noise, the issue that has grabbed the greatest amount of
public attention.

The department was told in advance that noise would be a problem.

“Helicopter enthusiasts say the only thing that can kill a police
helicopter program faster than money is noise. All police services (with
helicopters) identified noise complaints as an actual or potential
concern,” consultant Kathryn Asburn wrote in a report for the police
services board.

Schueller admits the turbo-powered helicopters, although not as noisy as
older piston-driven models, are not as quite as other, more expensive
models available in the jet class.

“They're the least expensive to operate in that category of helicopter but
they are not the quietest,” he said.

Armstrong has asked Toronto's medical officer of health, Dr. Sheela
Basrur, to conduct a study on the ill effects of helicopter noise.

But Monica Campbell, the health department's environmental protection
manager, says it will wait for the city auditor's report and then offer
its opinion to city council on the helicopter debate.

Said Armstrong: “We put up with noise like police cruiser and ambulance
and firetruck sirens because they've been proven to be useful. There's no
proof the police helicopter has any value. It's a Big Brother intrusion in
our lives.”

Her group can be reached at helena@web.ca

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.