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Dorset Police will continue to provide a policing service from the air after signing up to the National Police Air Service (NPAS).
Dorset Police and Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, Martyn Underhill, have negotiated with the Police National Air Service for the provision of air support to Dorset Police, replacing the Force owned service.
The national service is a collaborative agreement involving all 43 police forces in England and Wales and will go live on 3 July 2013.
The final agreement has been reached after several months of negotiations and will see the cost of air support to Dorset residents reduce by more than £500,000 a year while also improving coverage, availability and response times.
Dorset Police say air support is needed and often provides the only tactical option to address major incidents, ranging from locating vulnerable missing people through to assisting in the tracking and apprehension of armed criminals.
The national service will also take responsibility for any future replacement helicopters, the cost of which would exceed £4 million and would otherwise have to be met by local taxpayers.
In future, Dorset will benefit from the services of two helicopters, one covering the west of the Force area and the second covering the east.
The current Force helicopter, based at Force Headquarters in Winfrith, will initially continue to operate from that site while the national team are investigating a number of alternatives for its permanent operating location.
It will be tasked to attend incidents by the national dedicated centre, with agreed criteria for deployment.
As well as attending incidents in Dorset, it will also attend jobs in surrounding counties.
Acting Assistant Chief Constable for Dorset Police, Martin Hiles, said:
"This new national service will mean greater air coverage and capacity to attend incidents, which is good news for our communities. Where we currently have one helicopter covering the entire county, the national scheme means we will have back-up coverage provided by a second unit.
"Flying time in Dorset will increase from 19 hours per day to 24-hour coverage. This increased service also comes at a lower cost to the Force, with maintenance and servicing managed on a national level; reducing the burden of running costs on individual police forces."
Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, Martyn Underhill, said:
"I embrace the move to the National Police Air Service. It will reduce costs, add coverage and improve response times. It is the right
decision for the Force."