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Port Authority to suspend helicopter patrols of bridges, airports

The Port Authority is scrapping its decades-old practice of conducting security flyovers with helicopters because the daily sweeps of airports and bridges were found to be unnecessary and unaffordable, officials said Thursday.

“We’ve not seen any instances that they were used for emergency response,” said agency spokesman Steve Sigmund. “It just didn’t made sense to spend $4 million a year on helicopters flying around.”

Pilots with the helicopter unit, which patrolled the skies since 1951, were let go Thursday, with ground crews and accompanying police officers reassigned to other duties. The Port Authority intends to sell its two helicopters for around $8 million.

Robert Egbert, an officer with the Port Authority police Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said the cut leaves area bridges and airports with dangerously low security.

“This is an issue of responsibility,” Egbert said. The flyovers “are an integral part of securing Port Authority facilities.”

Sigmund disputed the charge, arguing that the PA has more security currently manning its facilities than at any time in its history.

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