SABLE to fly more as summer approaches

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY)– It is a piece of equipment funded by drug money, but officials say it helps find the drug dealers and saves dozens of lives and it’s about to start assisting even more.

The SABLE helicopter chases suspects, assists in ocean rescue, and uses infrared technology to find missing people.

“It’s extremely rewarding,” Chief Pilot Paul Letson said.

Letson says at first they had to search for ways to help.

“It takes a certain level of skills to operate in this kind of environment,” Letson said.

They had the skilled pilots, the officers and drug money to pay for it, but they didn’t have the techniques or the tactics.

“We had to prove ourselves as the new kids on the block,” Letson said.

Now they average 30 calls a month.

“Robberies, breaking and entering, foot chases car chases, missing person searches,” Letson said.

Calls that will now increase, because Letson says warm weather means more calls from the Coast Guard.

“The nearest Coast Guard aircraft is an hour and fifteen minutes away, so if something happens we’re a few minutes away,” Letson said.

You might see SABLE flying even when they are not on a call.

“Sometimes we do a focus patrol, or make an appearance in a certain area,” Letson said.

Letson says a bad guy may not see the helicopter, but the neighbors will.

“It’s happened a number of times,” Letson said. “They’ll wonder why SABLE is over their neighborhood. They’ll step out and look at the aircraft and then look across the street and see somebody that’s not supposed to be there, call 911 and we’ll draw attention to them.”

Whether it’s drawing attention to a crime, or finding a missing person in just minutes, Letson says SABLE has changed law enforcement across the southeast region.

“This has made an increase in public safety and officer safety,” Letson said. “It’s a terrific asset.”

Categories: Brunswick, New Hanover, News, Pender

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