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Electronic birds to patrol Beijing
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A policeman checks one of the new helicopters.

Beijing's 17 million residents will soon be looking up to the sky for policemen - they will be patrolling the city in four helicopters later this month, police officers said yesterday.

Those trapped in suburban mountainous areas or those who need urgent evacuation to hospitals, will be able to rely on the helicopters, Liu Guifang, deputy director of the city's special police unit, which will oversee the helicopter team, said.

These "big electronic birds" will also be used for traffic control, ground support, high-speed car chases, evidence collection at accident sites, and high-altitude photography, Liu said during a media visit to the helicopter base.

The helicopters are capable of monitoring 15 times the area of ground police, and in places where they are deployed, "robbery, theft and other street crimes will be reduced by 50 percent", Liu said.

The four helicopters were first used during the Beijing Olympic Games and are currently being used to maintain security at the Paralympic Games.

"They are the first helicopters in Beijing. We bought them not only for the Games, but to serve all people in the city," Liu said.

The police are discussing in detail with the city's health bureau on how the helicopters can help in search and rescue work, he said.

Liu said some hospitals in Beijing already have helicopter pads such as the 301 Military Hospital and the China-Japan Friendship Hospital.

Deputy director of the helicopter team, Zhao Changsheng, said the aircraft are from AgustaWestland, a helicopter manufacturer based in Italy and Britain, and they cost about 200 million yuan ($29 million) in total.

The fleet consists of one big helicopter capable of carry 14 people and 1.2 tons of equipment and the three smaller ones each of which can carry eight people and 400 kg of goods, Zhao said.

Currently, the team has 11 pilots and 33 technical and logistics staff, team head Yang Dongfeng said. The pilots were picked from the air force and the army aviation, and all of them have received special training in flying helicopters.

Yang said there are now 13 police helicopter teams on the mainland, with 23 aircraft in total.

"Beijing is not the first city to have air policemen, but we are confident we are going to be the best," he said.

(China Daily September 11, 2008)

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