So desperate are law-and-order weirdos to push a cop helicopter that a mysterious non-profit has come out of the heavens to offer the city one for free. Look beyond the gusts of wind they're kicking up, however, and you discover that a chopper is not the great weapon against crime backers pretend it to be -- and we won't even mention the noise.
8 Reasons Why this Bird won't Fly
1: Crime-fighting bust Choppers are supposed to deter crimes like auto theft and robbery. But the "evidence" cited in most supporting studies is anecdotal. The most controlled study yet on the subject, by University of Western Ontario sociologist Paul Whitehead, compared crime rates in London, Ontario, three months before and after the introduction of a police helicopter. The study looked at seven types of crimes and concluded that choppers had no "deterrent effect on the incidence of crime... [or] a suppression effect on rates of crime." Our city auditor's own study came to the same conclusion after a six-month pilot project in 2001.
2: No safety net for cops That choppers provide protection for police on the ground is more perception than reality. Of 789 incidents responded to during T.O.'s 2001 pilot project, 71 per cent of police officers said in interviews with the city auditor afterwards that the presence of the chopper had no effect on the outcome. Only 21 per cent said that the helicopter was important to the outcome.
3: Fast, maybe, but futile, too Speed is a chief selling point of chopper advocates, but in the 2001 test, the helicopter was first on scene only 28 per cent of the time (on 223 of 789 calls). The chopper on average attended less than one call per hour of flying time and six calls per day, while regular cop patrols on average responded to 86 high-priority calls an hour and more than 694 a day during the same period.
4: All speed, no chase Contrary to popular belief, helicopters show very limited effectiveness, if any at all, when it comes to high-speed vehicle pursuits. In fact, the likelihood of helicopters responding to high-speed chases is remote, since pursuits are usually less than two minutes long. The chopper used in the T.O. study supported a measly two of 76 vehicle pursuits. Neither of these was a high-speed chase.
5: Home on the range, not the core Choppers may be great for surveilling wide-open spaces, but their manoeuvrability in a city like Toronto is seriously limited in the core by tall buildings, which makes tasks like conducting searches next to impossible. The birds can't always get clearance to fly because of traffic from the Island and Pearson Airports, can't fly in inclement weather and can't stay in the air for more than two hours at a time because they have to be refuelled.
6: Like money falling from the sky For a force already taking up too much of taxpayers' dollars, the $1,000 an hour it will cost to operate these birds (including salaries of support officers and maintenance) is unjustifiable. The city could get more bang for its buck by taking the $3 million yearly it costs to run one chopper and hiring an additional 25 police officers.
7: Fixing a hole where debt gets in The cops already have a bird in the sky - a fixed-wing number used in drug surveillance. Other cities have gone to the fixed-wing option because it's quieter, offers better cover and is 10 times cheaper to fly - from $110 to $150 per hour. So why not use the craft already in stock instead of saddling ourselves with the costs of a helicopter we don't need?
8: Black Hawk conspiracies If choppers don't make policing sense, why would cops want them? Is it the thermal imaging capabilities, a tech useful in detecting pot grow ops, or the crowd control possibilities that are really behind this latest effort? Here's hoping cops here don't follow the lead of their counterparts south of the border in this respect.