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Monday, 30 July, 2001, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
Helicopters to cut school arson
Police helicopter
Helicopters can patrol schools in the summer holidays
Helicopters are being used in an attempt to cut down on arson attacks on schools in the summer holidays.

Aerial surveillance is being used by Merseyside police in a campaign to reduce the seasonal increase in school arson.

"Operation Safe School" is using helicopters to patrol schools which could be at risk of attack, using cameras and searchlights.

Firemen
An average of three schools a day are victims of arson attacks, costing 60m last year

Cameras on the police helicopters can work both during the day and at night, when they can identify heat sources.

These pictures are transmitted back to a control room, which can direct police on the ground towards suspects or suspicious activity.

The searchlights carried by the helicopters, measured at 30 million candle power, are strong enough to light up an entire school and its grounds.

Empty buildings

Arson is a major problem for schools across the country, with schools at their most vulnerable during the summer holidays when they are left unattended.

According to the Arson Prevention Bureau, funded by the Home Office and the insurance industry, there are an average of three arson attempts a day on schools in the United Kingdom, costing over 60m last year.

A police spokesperson said that using helicopters would also act as a deterrent for potential arsonists or school vandals.

"The disruption in terms of lost opportunities and continuity of learning for our school children when they return to school is incalculable," said Inspector Andy Adamson of the Air Support Unit.

See also:

19 Jul 01 | Education
Schools fear summer arson
30 Jul 98 | Education
Campaign to stop school arson attacks
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