THE number of police helicopters that flew over Bolton to search for suspects more than doubled in the space of a year, figures have revealed.

National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopters were sent to the borough 29 times between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020.

A helicopter during that time was suspended.

The previous year there were 14 police helicopters that were in the air helping officers search for suspects. A further three were cancelled and one was diverted in that time.

The number of police helicopters that arrived for vehicle pursuits went up from 31 in the 2018/19 statistics to 35 in the 2019/20 data.

An extra nine helicopters were cancelled in the latest figures.

From July 2019 to June this year, 10 police helicopters hovered over Bolton searching for missing people, up one from the previous year.

In total 74 police helicopters lofted over the town in 2019/20 – 20 more than 2018/19.

Chief Inspector Nick Hill of Greater Manchester Police's Specialist Operations Branch, said: "The support of National Police Air Service is an invaluable resource for policing.

"The police helicopter aids our officers on the ground when incidents require a ground search of a suspect who is hiding; the helicopter can use thermal imagining equipment and a spotlight to guide officers to the offender.

"GMP also uses NPAS to assist with missing from home investigations as the helicopter is able to cover a large area, helping officers quickly locate a missing person who may be vulnerable or in danger.

"Helicopters can also provide enhanced safety when dealing with an incident, such as during vehicle pursuits.

"By hovering above a chase and monitoring the scene below, the police's lead pursuit car is able drop further away from a suspect, who may be driving dangerously and at speed, helping to prevent any potential collisions."

The figures were released after a Freedom of Information request was submitted to West Yorkshire Police, which collects figures for NPAS.