Essex and Kent police share helicopter

ESSEX Police is to share its helicopter with the neighbouring force in Kent.The partnership has been trialled since October last year and was made official on April 1.

Annie Davidson

ESSEX Police is to share its helicopter with the neighbouring force in Kent.

The partnership has been trialled since October last year and was made official on April 1.

The extra income will mean the helicopter - which costs just under £2 million every year to run - will be available to take to the skies for 36 more hours per week.

It will be on stand-by to assist officers on the ground in Essex or Kent for 20 hours a day, seven days a week - an extra five hours per day from Monday to Saturday and an additional six hours on a Sunday.

If incidents unfold in both counties at the same time the helicopter would be allocated to the one considered the highest priority using nationally set criteria.

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It will keep its base at Boreham, near Chelmsford, but will now also be able to refuel in Rochester in Kent when necessary.

Essex already has an agreement with Suffolk and Cambridgeshire police forces, which have their own helicopters, so if one of the three is grounded then the others can be called on.

Kent, which has never had its own helicopter, has been using Essex's for a year on an as-needed basis and the partnership has been trialled since October last year.

A spokeswoman for Essex Police said a recent success had seen £86,000-worth of stolen cars recovered from an industrial estate in Kent.

The helicopter had been airborne over Southend when a tracking signal was set off by a stolen car which was traced to the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.

Police recovered the stolen vehicle and later discovered others worth a total of £86,000 at the unit.

Chairman of Essex Police Authority Robert Chambers said: “The helicopter can be used in many different ways and makes a real difference to policing in the county.

“We know that Kent Police will find it an invaluable resource and we are delighted to have reached this agreement, which with its increased flying time will undoubtedly benefit the public both sides of the water.”

Chairman of Kent Police Authority, Ann Barnes, said: “I'm really pleased this ideal opportunity has been created through our joint working with Essex.

“The authority is very much aware of how important it is that we provide the force with the tools to do the job to protect the public. “This extra resource will certainly play a key role in assisting officers on the ground with ongoing incidents.”

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