POLICE took to the skies of Wigan borough more than 150 times in the past two years in the fight against crime.
Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request revealed that in 2011 and 2012, the force’s helicopter was called into action in Wigan 158 times.
The most common incidents included looking for stolen or suspect vehicles, searching for missing persons, looking for cannabis farms using the thermal image camera and pursuits.
The cost of operating the helicopter – which is based at City Airport in Barton – for the 158 flights to Wigan, during which police dealt with 248 separate incidents, was £342,780.
North Manchester division saw the most call-outs in 2011 and 2012 by the GMP helicopter with 426. Stockport had the fewest with 93.
Despite multi-million pound cutbacks and changes to operating procedures, Greater Manchester Police say it is still a vital tool in the fight against crime.
Sgt David Kibblewhite, from the Air Support Unit, said: “In July 2011, the five North West police Forces signed up to an agreement that saw the launch of a Regional Air Support Unit, offering the North West region a flexible, cost effective and cross-border helicopter fleet.
“Since that time, we have reduced flying time by up to 10 percent with better tasking and dispatches.
“For example, we no longer have to worry about borders - we can have the closest helicopter deployed quickly to any incident and if there are two incidents in the same Force area, then two helicopters can be deployed as necessary. We have also made some significant savings.
“In January of this year, the same five Forces joined the National Police Air Service. Again, the launch of the NPAS was to deliver a more cost effective service, balancing the need to save money in a challenging economic environment against the need to ensure the police have a quickly deployable asset that can be used to tackle crime and protect the public.
“The NPAS allows us to operate the helicopters at a lower cost than if their services were procured and managed locally.
“It is vital we maintain the services helicopters provide, because they have proven to be a hugely effective way of detecting crimes and protecting the public. For instance, a lot of our call-outs are to help locate a suspect who has just committed a crime, locate people who have gone missing and pursue vehicles used in criminality, so the helicopters are an integral part of tackling crime.”