New Zealand police to trial 'eye in the sky' in Christchurch


In this March 18, 2019, file photo, a student lights candle during a vigil to commemorate victims of March 15 shooting, outside the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo: AP)

WELLINGTON, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- A trial deployment of the Police Eagle helicopter in Christchurch of New Zealand's South Island will test whether the aircraft would make a significant difference to crime prevention and community safety.

The Bell 429 helicopter will be based in Christchurch for five weeks, from Feb. 17 to March 20, according to Police Minister Stuart Nash on Monday.

"The ability for Police to have an 'eye in the sky' can make a real difference to public safety. From their vantage point the crew can co-ordinate operations on the ground, especially where offenders are still at the scene of an incident," Nash said in a statement.

More than half of the 6,000 callouts for Eagle helicopters each year involve road policing. Other work sees the crew support officers on the ground executing search warrants, Armed Offender Squad callouts, and search and rescue operations, Nash said.

"Eagle also has the ability to deliver medical support. In May last year it landed on Auckland's motorway to provide immediate first aid to a road accident victim," the minister said.

The Eagle helicopters are available 24/7 in the upper North Island and are deployed to other parts of the country when the need arises. An Eagle helicopter was deployed to Christchurch following the March 15 terror attack and during the visit of Britain's Prince William.

The Eagle trial in Christchurch will involve a helicopter and crew normally based in Auckland, and costs will be met from within the existing police budget. Following the trial, a full evaluation will be carried out before any decisions are taken on next steps, he said.

"Police are continually assessing and trialing initiatives to determine what different communities may need to keep them safe," he added.