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Winston Peters backs proposal for more police helicopters to make chases safer

Deputy Prime Minister and NZ First party leader Winton Peters is backing a proposal by one of his party members to get more police helicopters aiding those on the frontline.

But while the cost of the proposed venture in not known, NZ First law and order spokesman Darroch Ball says additional police air assets should be more widely used around the country.

"It is an absolute no-brainer if we are wanting to minimise police pursuits and maximise apprehensions to extend our aerial helicopter assets to the main centres which see the greatest number of fleeing driver incidents," Mr Ball said.

A report by police and the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) shows fleeing drivers have reached record numbers and the increase doesn’t look to be slowing down.

The report found police in districts of Wellington, Central (which includes Taranaki and Whanganui) and Christchurch combined had more than half of all of the fleeing driver incidents throughout the country, but had no air assets to offer back-up to pursuing officers on the ground.

However, in Auckland, the police helicopter attends more than 65% of all dispatched fleeing driver incidents and has contributed to an apprehension rate of 99.7% when it is involved.

Mr Peters told TVNZ1's Breakfast today it would be more feasible to implement helicopters in smaller cities, especially rural areas, where tall buildings aren't obscuring the chase.

"What we're saying is if we can put far more of those utilities behind the police, we'll be far more effective, and it's important it's effective because, as you can see by the number of people who are dying, probably speed on our roads is one of the worst things that's happening," Mr Peters said. "We're going to take this really seriously and find answers to it.

"The strike rate where they're [helicopters] being used is way past 99% ... so what we're talking about is the money to give police the utility to ensure that when it [police chases] happens, particularly in the rural countryside setting or the non-town build up setting, that it will work."

The proposal was not suggesting every centre in New Zealand would have a helicopter, Mr Peters said.

"How many helicopters that means? Well, you could go and say we need probably 100, but we can't afford that. But all he's [Mr Ball] saying is if the police had more helicopters then they'd be far more effective in terms of ensuring that the chase get the culprit whilst not imperilling other road users at the time."

The proposal looked at international research, Mr Peters said. But he would not go into further detail about how many helicopters, or to what cost, would be reasonable for New Zealand.

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    Deputy PM and party leader Winston Peters explains the proposal on TVNZ1’s Breakfast. Source: Breakfast