The majority of Winnipeggers feel that the presence of the Air1 police helicopter makes them feel safer and more secure in their communities, according to a review of the flight unit.
Consulting firm MNP was selected to look into the effectiveness of the police chopper in 2018.
The service initially announced its plan to have an assessment in 2016, but it was cancelled after changes to provincial funding.
The survey on the flight unit involved feedback from police service members, external stakeholders and the public.
According to the report, officers on the ground also feel the helicopter is helping them do their jobs, but 74 per cent said the helicopter should be used more.
The data collected over the last five years also shows considerably more arrests are made when Air1 is present.
The report said the number of arrests rises to 76 per cent when the Flight Operations Unit attends the call, compared to 55 per cent without the chopper’s presence.
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When Air1 is involved in pursuits, there’s also less property damage – but there is a slight increase in injuries to suspects, other civilians, or officers.
The report, however, was unable to complete a full cost benefit analysis. MNP said Winnipeg police don’t collect and analyze all of the necessary data to quantify whether the helicopter is financially ‘worth it’, but that it’s a good use of police resources in terms of its crime-fighting benefits.
The funds invested in the helicopter unit, the report said, would pay for 0.7 per cent of a fully-staffed patrol car on an annual basis.
The helicopter was purchased by the city for $3.5 million in 2010.