Police helicopter in Sidmouth intruder searches

PUBLISHED: 10:01 29 September 2008 | UPDATED: 11:15 17 June 2010

A POLICE helicopter, officers on the ground and a dog handler searched for the source of suspicious noises in the grounds of a Sidmouth home on Friday, September 19.

A POLICE helicopter, officers on the ground and a dog handler searched for the source of suspicious noises in the grounds of a Sidmouth home on Friday, September 19.

Using its thermal imaging equipment, the helicopter, which had earlier circled over the Salcombe Hill area of town, helped help guide on-the-ground police, including a dog handler, in a search of Redwood Road properties around 9.20pm after reports of a possible intruder.

It was the second alert by the public about suspicious incidents that night and on board both times were Sidmouth's Sergeant Andy Turner and PC Dave Wallace, offering crew local knowledge of the area.

Sgt Turner praised residents for informing police of suspicious occurrences after a series of burglaries in the town.

Residents in Salcombe Hill have already been warned to be vigilant over house security following break-ins there.

"There has been an increase in calls reporting suspicious activity since the story in the Sidmouth Herald [of the burglaries] and I urge people to continue ringing in," he said.

"I would rather have 100 999 calls that turned out to be nothing if the 101st is the one that catches the burglar."

Of the later operation Sgt Turner said: "We carried out a search to discount a noise heard in the grounds. After an extensive ground search we were able to discount it as human and believe it was a large animal, perhaps a deer.

He said people should not be afraid to dial 999 if they see someone acting suspiciously, so a patrol can be dispatched immediately, but should not call it if the incident being reported had happened an hour or so earlier.

"We would like people to ring at the time, not leave it and think about it," he added.

He supported Friday's use of the helicopter.

"In the first search it was needed to cover a large rural area, which was done in just a few minutes.

"A ground search on that scale would have needed 20-30 police officers, so wouldn't have been done.

"With the helicopter we covered a phenomenal area and were able to double check and re-deploy to do other duties in less than half-an-hour."

He said the second search needed the thermal imaging equipment to guide the ground team. He urged people to remain indoors during such searches to avoid confusion.

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