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Eye in the Sky: Evaluation of Police Helicopter Patrols (The London Police Service Helicopter Research Project)

NCJ Number
Paul C. Whitehead, Ph.D.
Date Published
March 2001
118 pages
This evaluation of the London Police Service's helicopter patrols (Ontario, Canada)) examined whether helicopter patrols had a suppression effect on the incidence of various types of crime and occurrences, as well as whether helicopter patrols increased the operational effectiveness and/or efficiency of the police service.
A critical review of the relevant literature concluded that no data exist that substantiate claims the helicopter use suppresses crime rates. Quasi-experimental tests of the London Police Service's helicopter patrols found no suppression effect on crime rates and no diversion of crime to areas not patrolled by the helicopter. Analyses of occurrence reports and police logs found evidence of increased efficiency, in that time per call was less when a helicopter was involved. There was also evidence of increased effectiveness, in that apprehensions were more likely when the helicopter was involved. In addition, the helicopter provided unique advantages for some types of searches. Surveys of the public and police officers found that members of the public were "somewhat supportive" of police helicopter use; and police officers were very positive about its contribution to policing. The evaluator chose not to offer conclusions about whether London or any other city ought to have a police helicopter. He views the purpose of the evaluation to be that of adding information and analysis that can be used by those charged with making policy decisions. List of tables and figures, appended summary of findings, and 31 references