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Copter bid to combat rail crime.

A HELICOPTER will be patrolling the skies above Coventry and Warwickshire this Easter to help combat the major problem of railway crime in the region.

Network Rail and British Transport Police will be taking to the skies for the next three weeks to hunt down the vandals who cause misery for thousands of commuters every year by breaking on to railway lines.

The initiative, codenamed Operation Skyhawk, aims to catch trespassers as well as deter youngsters from straying near the tracks during the school holidays.

Coventry is one of the Midlands' hot spots for trespass, vandalism and other criminal acts. In particular the Coundon Road area which saw 25 crime incidents in the past 12 months.

That problem was equalled on railway lines in Warwick which also attracted 25 crime incidents.

Fully equipped with a 360- degree zoom camera with thermal imaging, the "eye in the sky" will fly over key problem areas keeping a watch for intruders. Any trespassers spotted will then be tracked from the above while the police are called.

Network Rail regional director Richard Fearn said research had shown that young teenagers caused much of the damage to tracks and vandalism and trespassing often increased during school holidays.

He added: "The railway is not a playground but some people put their lives and the lives of others in danger by trespassing on the tracks.

"We have reduced the number of incidents in the region through a series of initiatives such as patrols and improved fencing but we are anxious to continue this good work. "Using the helicopter will enable us to react more quickly and the video camera means we will have evidence to support prosecution."
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Apr 15, 2003
Words:280
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