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Helicopter outrage hovers around Islington

PUBLISHED: 12:37 13 September 2011 | UPDATED: 13:40 13 September 2011

The Air Support Unit helicopter

The Air Support Unit helicopter

Archant

Furious residents have bombarded the Met with complaints about noisy police helicopter operations.

People in Highbury, Holloway and Barnsbury are incensed that their sleep is being disturbed by helicopters hovering above their home most nights, but police said their chopper has been used in Islington for just 20 minutes a week on average since April.

The Met has received 75 complaints about the helicopter in 2011 so far, and a third of these are from Islington, even though it only spent just over 19 hours in the borough out of a total of almost 1,300 in the last five months according to police figures.

Nasreen Halim, 29, who lives on Eden Grove, Holloway, said: “It seems to be hovering over my house most nights. It’s really loud and wakes my son up – its pretty disturbing. Now they are getting later and later – last night they were here at 2am.”

Sophie Bertrand, who lives in Highbury, said: “Trying to sleep at night these past few weeks has been a nightmare with helicopters out at all hours.

“It is not even clear who is responsible or how we can complain. The very least residents deserve is an explanation and a promise of when it will end.”

Members of internet forums are also up in arms about the nightly noise, but figures show that the chopper spent less than an hour a week over Islington last year.

Single engine helicopters have to follow a strict flight path along the Thames, but twin-engine machines, like those used by the press and the military, have more freedom. Some of these are similar in colour to the police helicopter and it is thought some of the disturbances may be due to them.

Councillor Terry Stacey, leader of Islington’s Liberal democrat group, said: “There has been a massive increase recently both in night-time helicopter activity in Islington and resident complaints.

“Obviously, if the police are trying to catch dangerous criminals these night-time flights might be justifiable. The police need to show residents that these operations are leading to arrests. There are also clear rules on the routes and times for private helicopters and we need to be sure these are being followed.”

The police helicopter is used in vehicle pursuits, firearms incidents and to chase suspects in cases where there may be risk to officers on the ground.

Each flying hour costs £850 and the Met spent £37,754 on Islington operations last year. With 56 people arrested in the borough as a direct result of the chopper, each suspect cost around £630 to catch.


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