Metro / Annalise Klingbeil The Edmonton police's Air-1 helicopter, seen here with pilot Cst. Tom Bechthold, is declining more calls because of the distance it has to travel to the Villeneuve airport.

Since it’s move out to the Villeneuve Airport Air-1 is declining calls, leaving them early and getting their too late and the Edmonton Police have a $15 million solution in mind.

The Edmonton police helicopter moved out of City Centre Airport on Nov. 15 — when the facility closed — and into a hangar at the Villeneuve Airport.

The new location means the helicopter has a 12-minute flight time to city limits.

Insp. Gary Godziuk, who oversees the unit, said despite the best efforts of crews, the move has had a negative impact on operations.

“The state of flight-ops is not ideal with it being outside the city,” he said. “It just puts more pressure on our guys. It puts more pressure on the machine.”

Godziuk said the distance has sometimes meant they are taken out of action during important calls.

“If we’re in the city at a call and we need to go refuel, we’re out of action for 30 minutes,” he said.

Godziuk said the police are preparing a business case for twin-engine helicopters to replace the current single-engine craft, but each would cost in the range of $7.5 million.

Twin engine craft could take off vertically, which the current helicopters can’t do, making it easier to find a home in city limits for them. They would also be able to carry tactical or canine-unit members.

He said he understands the scale of that investment, but the costs will only grow.

City Coun. Scott McKeen said council will have to weigh that against the whole capital budget.

“That’s a lot of money,” he said.

He also wonders if the money couldn’t be better spent on frontline policing and he would be interested in an audit of the program’s effectiveness.

“The business case might be there, but I think we also want to see clearly that the effectiveness in policing is there, that it’s really making a marked difference in crime reduction,” he said.

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