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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Law enforcement says the SABLE helicopter is a very effective tool to track down suspects or missing persons. This morning, though, Wilmington Police called in SABLE after a vehicle was broken into.

Was that a good call?

Police called in SABLE to help search for the suspect after he ran into the woods nearby. The burglary happened in the parking lot of the Mill Creek Spartments off of South Kerr Ave.

Some feel calling in sable was unnecessary.

“A minor break-in? I think that’s a little excessive,” Jessie Sullivan of Wilmington said.

Wilmington Police say there is no level of crime needed in order to use SABLE. They say if a supervisor feels it is needed, they can call it in for assistance.

“Property crime is something that we take very seriously, and certainly someone breaking into a car to steal something is a felony,” WPD spokesman Det. Kevin Smith said.

But what about the cost?

“It’s not good for the cost, especially for minor incidents,” Sullivan said.

Det. Smith, though, says using SABLE does not use tax payer dollars.

“The SABLE budget in total is actually funded by federal dollars from drug seizure programs,” he said.

Despite the help from SABLE, investigators could not find Thursday morning’s suspect. Still smith says SABLE is very effective.

Last week officers used SABLE and its thermal imaging technology to find a 73-year-old man with dementia who had wandered off.

“SABLE was actually able to direct the deputies exactly to where the subject was in a heavy wooded area,” Det. Smith said.

Just one of many ways law enforcement uses this eye in the sky.

SABLE is a joint effort by Wilmington Police, the New Hanover and Pender County Sheriff’s Offices and Leland Police.

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10 Comments on "ONLY ON 3: What prompts SABLE to take flight?"

2015 years 10 months ago

It does seem a bit over the top to use a helicopter for a car B&E but if it was your car you may not feel that way. I find it funny that they said it is not tax dollars that pay for it but it is the federal government’s drug seizure money. It is still tax payer dollars no matter where if it is governemnt funded.

2015 years 10 months ago

Money and property seized from drug dealers isn’t money taken in by taxes. The property is auctioned off and the arresting agency gets some of the proceeds back as well as a portion of the cash that was seized. It is different than tax money.

2015 years 10 months ago

How is drug seizure money tax payer dollars? It comes from money that was seized when drug dealers are arrested.

2015 years 10 months ago

But the police shouldn’t try to catch criminals. People gotta eat.

2015 years 10 months ago

You have got to be a troll.

2015 years 10 months ago

First, I’m in favor of them using the helicopter. You never know who the thief is. He/she may be wanted for a more serious crime. Lets just get them off the street with all the tools available. (Yes, I know the courts will just let them go. That’s another discussion.)

With that being said, I don’t think just because money comes from seizures means it could be spent irresponsibly with no ill effects. The government decided it can use seized money to fight crime. That’s great but they could easily decide instead that it goes towards normal operating costs of running police departments taking some of the burden off tax payers. So, whether it’s tax dollars, seized dollars, or donated dollars, I don’t think we should ever justify an expenditure just because it’s funded with seized money. It should stand on it’s own and I think in the discussion over the helicopter it does.

Charles Walters
2015 years 10 months ago

What prompts SABLE to take flight? DOUGHNUTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2015 years 10 months ago

It’s darn if you do and darn if you don’t. Years ago, people were why the police around here didn’t have enough equipment to fight crime. Now that they do, people still complain. I bet if it was your car that was broken into you would want the cops to do all they can try to catch the person. And, BTW, 99 percent of the complaints that are made about the SABLE chopper comes from those either engaged in illegal activity or knows someone that its. When they hear the chopper coming their way, you should see the druggies take cover and run. The chopper is causing them to loose their business, and the don’t even know it wasn’t coming to get them, just some young punk breaking into someone’s car. lol.

2015 years 10 months ago

Mill Creek Apartment Homes is a densely populated complex with many single women living there. What if a woman came home, at any hour of the night, and this thug was out roaming the parking lots? What do you think he could have done to her? What if he tried to break into apartments? This cretin was out there to do NO GOOD to anyone. How would you like to have this man lurking around your driveway knowing your wife / daughter would be coming home alone?? It’s time to show these low life SOB’s that the police and everyone else is tired of their crimes and it’s a good show of force that the helicopter was right there in an attempt to catch him. As for my comment here, I thank the Wilm PD and the Sable helicopter men for a job well done and appreciated. The Sable has caught the bad guys before and they will again. You know something, if the police had been complacent about this you would be yelling your heads off that they don’t do their jobs. What do you want? Protection or indifference?

2015 years 10 months ago

I think it’s a good tool, but it needs independent oversight. Those involved in making the call to fly likely have political and financial interests in getting it in the air. I’d like to see WWAY investigate how the pilots and officers are paid – is it salary or do they get call-in and overtime pay? Do they get bonus / differential pay for being certified to fly? How long does it take to get it flying once the call goes out? How long does it take to get to Wilmington once it’s in the air? What’s the success rate – how many missions result in a successful apprehension vs. missions that yield no results?

And that thing is way too loud. It kept my wife awake for hours one night while they flew around the UNCW campus looking for the armed robber that supposedly ran onto the campus. It can be operated in a quieter manner, but the pilot is either not skilled enough to fly quieter, or just doesn’t care.


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