By September the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service expects to be patrolling the skies over Cayman in its own helicopter.
Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan said this week that RCIPS had purchased a Eurocopter EC 135-T1 1999 model for around $1.8 million. Some additional costs were paid for various policing equipment.
Shipping the helicopter is likely to take several weeks.
‘We will probably not expect to see it here until the first week in September,’ Commissioner Kernohan said.
According to the company that manufactures the helicopters, the EC 135 model is most commonly used for police and ambulance services in Europe. Most EC 135 models can carry up to seven passengers or a maximum 2,835 kilograms.
The helicopter’s top speed is about 260 kilometres per hour (162 miles per hour), and the range of most models is 595 kilometres (372 miles).
‘It’s the standard helicopter that’s certainly used in the United Kingdom for policing operations,’ Mr. Kernohan said.
For more than a year, the RCIPS has used Cayman Helicopters in certain situations where air support was needed. The government has picked up the tab for those services, but has refused to disclose how much was paid. Cayman Helicopters can charge up to US$1,700 per hour for private tours in its aircraft.
The use of Cayman Helicopters has brought both cheers and concerns from the Cayman Islands public. Officers used the chopper to help catch a fast canoe that attempted to bring some 1,000 pounds of ganja into North Side. Five people were arrested in the incident.
However, the use of the helicopter caused a stir in Bodden Town in January when it flew over the shores of the public beach to help catch two men who were later determined to be illegally using a hook stick to fish for lobster.
Mr. Kernohan said the helicopter was called out in the January incident because there was an emergency call to assist an officer.
‘The effectiveness of police air support world-wide…is well documented,’ Mr. Kernohan said.
‘Here in the Cayman Islands over the last couple of years there has been several instances, not only in the crime side, but also in search and rescue where the use of a helicopter has very much been proven to be a real benefit both to crime reduction and to…saving life.’
Mr. Kernohan said the police helicopter will also play an important role in detecting illegal migrants and border protection.
‘The use of air support is only a part, but an important part, of our overall border control strategy linking in to use of our marine assets as well to help seal our borders,’ he said.
He said the Cayman Helicopters craft might still be requested for use by police after the new Eurocopter EC 135 arrives. However, he said it would only be for rare, emergency circumstances.