A Royal Navy ship, diverted from its original mission, has been helping crack down on gang-related violence in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Tideforce has been working alongside the Islands Police Force's Marine Branch and the Governor of the UK Overseas Territory after a reported 15 fatal stabbings since early September.
RFA Tideforce, with her embarked Wildcat helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron, was in the North Atlantic supporting HMS Queen Elizabeth when she was rerouted.
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A violent upsurge in gang-related murders fuelled by drugs, weapons and turf wars had created an unprecedented security situation.
With her specialist airborne capability, Tideforce provided UK reassurance and commitment to the people of the Turks and Caicos through patrol, surveillance and reporting operations.
The Wildcat Maritime Attack Helicopter can be employed during anti-surface warfare, force protection, counter-piracy and anti-submarine roles.
Lieutenant Commander Phil Barron, the ship's Flight Commander, said: "The Wildcat helicopter is able to use its array of sensors to conduct persistent surveillance and reconnaissance of a predetermined area chosen by the local policing effort.
"Using the radar and electro-optical camera it was also possible to find and track suspect vessels at sea and report their location for onward interception and boarding.
"Overland, using the thermal and optical cameras, it is possible to provide imagery of sensitive areas within the gang territories or hideouts and report any suspicious activity to the police. Captured data can also be used as evidence to assist in criminal prosecutions," Lt Cdr Barron added.
RFA Tideforce is to remain on notice in the region working with its counterparts from the US Navy and is due to complete its current deployment and return to the UK in December.
Nigel Dakin, governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands, said: "The surveillance capability provided by Tideforce's helicopter provided perfect top-cover to muscular policing activity conducted by the Tactical Firearm's Unit of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force, reinforced by similar specialist officers from the Bahamas.
"The same helicopter was invaluable in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona. "I was able to thank the captain and crew personally – we remain extremely grateful here, to those who serve away from their families, as they protect ours."