POLICE have defended using a helicopter to search a potential rave in Silverton yesterday.
Ground officers and the National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter were called out to the area at around 12.20pm on Tuesday.
The incident was described as a ‘false alarm’ after the helicopter did a sweep of the area and nothing was spotted.
It is believed that crews were sent out due to a previous rave in the area.
Devon and Cornwall Police has defended its decision to send the air crew out to such an incident, despite a cost of £1,700 an hour to use the helicopter.
Bill Pascoe, press officer, said: “It wouldn’t have been a waste of money if it had turned out to be a rave.
“It is not unusual for the police helicopter to attend an incident like this. They send it out to get a view of the area as it is easier to manage from the air.”
The NPAS helicopter, which is based in Exeter but is used across Devon, can search an area of one mile square in 12 minutes.
According to the police website using the helicopter is far more cost effective than using officers on the ground.
It states: “When searching rural areas the helicopter is the best resource in eliminating open ground and inaccessible areas and by far the cheapest when compared with police officers on foot (454 man hours per mile squared).
“It is safer to search rooftops using the helicopter. It is the only significant large area night search capable resource.”
The force also came under criticism in 2009 for deploying the police helicopter to reports of a rave in Exeter, which turned out to be a barbecue party.
Mary Poole, whose son was holding his 30th birthday that evening, said the issue had been ‘blown out of proportion’ after police closed down the event.
Mrs Poole said: “Four cars drove down a private lane to a private field.
“The police helicopter was over them and all it watched them do was put up a gazebo and light a barbecue.”
She added: “It was a small event with no more than 10 people there when it was raided. My son had put information up on Facebook and had 17 people confirmed they were coming.”
A police spokesman speaking at the time said: “The decision to close down a rave or illegal music festival is not taken lightly and the force recognises that there are many legitimate and well-organised events held regularly.
“Had it gone ahead, it is likely that far more of our resources would have been used to police the event and there would have been considerable disruption to neighbouring properties.”