Police hunt for illegal ravesBy Becky Barnes
January 31, 2013
Bracknell's police have been holding weekend patrols hunting for signs of illegal raves being held in woodland around the borough.
Reporter Becky Barnes joined them for a night on patrol.
Sitting in the back of a police van is not how I usually spend Friday nights.
But before anyone thinks I was locked up, I was a civilian observer on a rave reduction patrol with police.
Just before 8pm at Bracknell police station Sgt Matt Grey briefed the team of 16 police constables, community support officers, special constables.
He explained recent raves had caused a lot of disturbance to residents, including people from Broadmoor Hospital, and said the land in Swinley Forest, where the last rave happened, is privately owned by the Crown Estate.
He said: “Rave-goers may perceive they are in the middle of nowhere but residents can hear the noise and it is quite loud.”
PC Marius York explained raves can attract ‘unlawful activity’ which can compromise people’s welfare so the patrols aim to disrupt rave-like activity before a party gets going.
A rave is defined by law as an outdoor gathering of 20 people or more where ‘amplified music’ is played ‘wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats’.
Police have the power to order two or more people off land if they believe they are preparing for a rave or 10 or more believed to be waiting for a rave to start. I joined PC York and PC Richard Peek who were patrolling Nine Mile Ride between The Golden Retriever and New Forest Ride.
PC York explained we were looking for people or vehicles gathering or driving around looking for potential rave. He added: “We will speak to those people try to ascertain what is going on and feed it into operation so everybody is aware.”
After driving up and down our stretch, we parked at Devil’s Highway and continued on foot behind Broadmoor Hospital.
Armed with my torch and high-vis jacket, and the officers with tear gas, we made our way down the slippery path to near the scene of the last rave. We didn’t find signs of a rave, or a party, but rustles in the bushes proved to be deer and we did find the shell of a burnt out car, which PC York said proved crime took place on the land.
If we had found a rave and it was beyond control Sgt Grey said police would take on the role of first officer on the scene and more help would be deployed from Thames Valley Police.
Police have been working in partnership with the Crown Estate office and forest rangers helped familiarise officers with the area and also do their own patrols each weekend.
Head warden Gareth Griffith said: “People may think they are in the middle of a forest but it is the minutest bits of welfare that are in danger – nocturnal wildlife is particularly vulnerable.”
I left the patrol at 10pm, while officers continued until 2am on both Friday and Saturday nights.
Acting Inspector Charlotte Parker confirmed there were no raves but patrols would continue to reduce the risk of it happening again.