Helicopter funding on track

Government plans to buy a helicopter to help improve policing.

That’s according to the Annual Plan for the Cayman Islands upcoming budget year.

The plan states: ‘An Equity Investment of $5.5 million will be made into the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs to fund the establishment of a new Police Marine Facility; the purchase of a helicopter; new vessels and other assets required to assist with the fight against crime and improved border protection.’

According to budget documents, the helicopter will cost $1.8 million.

The spending plan requires approval of the Legislative Finance Committee. The Government’s next budget year runs from 1 July to 30 June, 2008

Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Commissioner Stuart Kernohan has made no secret of the fact that he wants a helicopter for the exclusive use of law enforcement.

‘It’s very important for the Cayman Islands, and it’s an intrinsic part of modern policing,’ Mr. Kernohan said during an April press briefing.

RCIPS has a contractual agreement with Cayman Islands Helicopters, which allows the police service to use the helicopter for a price.

The exact cost of that contract has never been made public.

‘We do pay for the use of the helicopter,’ Mr. Kernohan said. ‘(The cost) is not something I would wish to publicise.’

Cayman Islands Helicopters puts its current private rental rates at US$1,700 per hour, or CI$1,430 per hour. However, the company does not charge for the full hour if the chopper is only used for part of that time.

Mr. Kernohan said the rented helicopter played a major role in the arrest of five people who police said were piloting a fast canoe loaded with 1,000 pounds of ganja on Cayman’s North Side earlier this year.

Police said the helicopter was used to track the canoe in the early morning hours, and actually spotted people on board the vessel tossing bales over the side.

‘It is clear that the air support is having very much an impact on criminality in the Cayman Islands,’ Mr. Kernohan said.

He also noted the helicopter has recently been used to assist in search and rescue missions.

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