Police adopt new tactics to tackle festive illegal raves

Officers plans to use spotters and automatic number-plate recognition technology to prevent gatherings or halt any that have begun

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Devon and Cornwall Police are employing new tactics in a bid to prevent illegal raves over the festive period.

The force has admitted it was "caught out" by two events last year when about 100 officers were involved in stopping gatherings in the Haldon Hill area, near Exeter.

This Christmas and new year, the force will use several techniques including automatic number-plate recognition.

Ch Insp Brendan Brookshaw said the force was "planned and ready".

One-hour target

The operation is part of the force's Christmas and new year policing programme.

It will also include "spotters", who are teams in four-by-four vehicles aiming to locate where the raves might happen before they occur.

Mr Brookshaw said a full public order team would arrive at an illegal rave, anywhere in the force area, within one hour of the police learning of an event.

He added the team would seize equipment and arrest people if necessary.

Joss Hibbs, who lives and runs a business close to a Dartmoor forest where raves have occurred, said the tactics "were a step in the right direction".

She said during a rave in June 2012 police enforced road blocks on the surrounding routes which resulted in passing trade for three days being "non-existent".

Ravers on Dartmoor Police say they will seize equipment and arrest ravers if necessary

Mr Brookshaw said: "To prevent that impact on local people, we identify it [a rave] early, and then as quickly as possible we shut down the rave and seize all of the equipment so the impact on the local population is reduced."

Neighbouring force support

In a freedom of information request by BBC News, the force said that between 26 and 27 December 2012, a total of 83 officers were involved in stopping a rave event on Haldon Hill.

However, it said "most did not attend the scene".

It added no officers from any other force attended, although an enquiry was made to Avon and Somerset Police as to whether a support unit would be available if needed.

Between 31 December 2012 and 1 January 2013 about 17 officers were involved in policing a rave event on Haldon Hill/Haldon Forest.

Mr Brookshaw said some of the initiatives had been "effectively" used earlier in the year and "they had prevented a number of events".

He said: "Devon and Cornwall Police do wish you [ravers] a very merry Christmas and a happy new year and we don't want you in a wood, or field where you could be sold drugs, or left in a vulnerable position, that's what we're trying to prevent."

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