Bright lights in the cities

The crew of the West Midlands Police helicopter have shared a selection of night snaps of Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

The city’s famous motto ‘Out of Darkness Cometh Light’ is spectacularly brought to life by this remarkable aerial shot of Wolverhampton at night.

Bright gold arteries run through the blackness below, with thousands of street lamps marking out the city’s busiest routes while some of the area’s biggest and best known buildings shine in the night sky. 

From the bustling Royal Mail depot on Sun Street at the front of the picture to the landmark Graiseley flats lit up in red at the rear, this ptograph captures Wolverhampton city centre and its surroundings as very few people see it – in the middle of the night. 

The normally clogged up Wednesfield Road, next to the postal base, lies empty without a single car on it while the city’s tallest building, Victoria Hall, which houses students over its 25 floors, can also be seen at the top of the road. 

The ring road circles the city centre, while other routes, including the A41 Bilston Road and the A449 Penn Road can also be clearly seen on the shot. 

In the distance lights in some of the outlying areas such as Tettenhall can be spotted. 

The photograph is one of a number of images which have been released by the West Midlands Police helicopter team which they have captured while flying over the region to attend police call outs. Some of the region’s other well known landmarks including Birmingham’s Spaghetti Junction and the Ray Hall interchange have also been pictured. 

Sergeant Dave Mitchell the unit executive officer of the West Midlands Police Air Operations Unit said today that it was ‘amazing’ to  see the Midlands from the air at night.

He highlighted Black Country landmarks such as the Molineux and Dudley’s Russells Hall Hospital as some of the buildings which were often the most brightly lit.

The team are called on to help support police at crime scenes across the region and to help find missing people. They also work with the fire service if needed at large scale blazes. 

These breathtaking pictures of the West Midlands lit up at night can today be revealed after they were released by the ‘privileged’ police crew that looks down on the stunning scenes.

The crew of the West Midlands Police helicopter has shared a selection of remarkable snaps taken from the sky with a special digital camera. 

The region’s weaving road network, crammed full of traffic in daylight hours, is almost deserted with just a few sets of headlights showing on miles of carriageway.

And the region’s bustling landmarks such as the Merry Hill Shopping Centre are at a standstill, marked out only by the bright glow which helps the crew navigate the night sky. As the crew travels over the patch, often after being called on to help track down criminals on the run or missing people, they are treated to some of the best views available. 

Birmingham’s busy Spaghetti junction – which is clogged with cars in the day – lies empty but glowing at night, while in another photograph the lights of Birmingham Airport which guide planes in to land can be seen. 

These are sights which members of the crew say they know they are privileged to see. Sergeant Dave Mitchell, who heads up a team of five pilots and 10 police observers along with his deputy, says taking to the sky at night can often be like another world. 

“When it seems like you are the only people awake at night it can be quite odd. It is more like a dream world. It is an amazing sight really to see the region in darkness. On a clear night you can see as far as the Malvern Hills and when we lift up from our base at Birmingham Airport. 

“You can see Sedgley sometimes as well.

“At night you are reliant on shapes and positions of building with lights on that help you navigate. You build up a mental map when you are flying in the day but at night it is a series of lights. 

“You are looking for general pointers such as the Merry Hill Shopping Centre or Molineux and comparing that on a map you should be able to find what you are looking for. There are lots of vivid colours that you can see on buildings and fluorescent lights that build up quite a nice picture.”

He added: “When you reach the edge of the West Midlands at Wolverhampton, it goes into total darkness it is like going to the end of the world. The boundary of the West Midlands is very clearly marked.”

The crew of three which goes out each time the helicopter is called into action often spends most of its 1,400 yearly flying hours out at night. Officers work by torchlight to consult maps and say going out in the evening requires extra concentration. 

To help guide them to the scene of incidents police officers will often shine a light up or put their police car lights so the helicopter can spot them. Sgt Mitchell says that in the Black Country, Dudley’s Russells Hall Hospital and Molineux can always easily be spotted by the crew – and that football stadiums in general are always good to look at – particularly when they put lamps on to cover the pitch to help the grass grow.

Over in Birmingham there are a number of landmarks including Selfridges at the Bull Ring and the Mail Box. 

Sgt Mitchell says: “Spaghetti junction is amazing,” adding: “Working on the department is an absolute privilege, it really is. We know we are privileged people to be able to do this, to fly at any time, day or night is great. On a clear night you can see the moon and watching a large vehicle make its way through the streets is odd, particularly when you go through a dark area such as Forge Lane in Sandwell valley, when you can’t see the roads but just the headlights from the car winding its way around.”

The helicopter completes around 3,000 tasks a year including making more than 500 arrests. In the last 12 months the team has also found 27 missing people. 

Crews cover the West Midlands but have an agreement with the forces in Staffordshire and West Mercia, which share a helicopter, so that whoever is closest to an incident will go. 

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