Police go off-road to tackle nuisance bikers and criminals who plague communities

Communities plagued by nuisance motorbikers have been given the prospect of relief by a decision by South Yorkshire Police to extend their off-road unit which has proved highly successful since it was established two years ago.

Monday, 21st October 2019, 4:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th October 2019, 1:56 pm
Long arm of the law: Off road bikers can reach the parts conventional police cannot reach

Anti social behaviour by motorbike riders causes widespread complaints, with housing estates and open areas of land both affected by noise nuisance from exhausts and danger from riders’ behaviour.When neighbourhood policing was established by the South Yorkshire force an off road motorbike unit was set up at the Operations Complex in Tinsley, with officers seconded from roads policing and neighbourhood teams, including two from Sheffield, to provide cover.It has proved so successful police have decided to formalise that arrangement with a permanent squad of four off road riders who are supplemented by part-time colleagues who step in to boost numbers when they are operating in the county's four local policing districts where they are normally based.That will give the off road team the capacity to operate with up to eight riders in future, providing the opportunity to mount increasingly effective operations in future or to split resources, allowing the off road team to act in more than one area at the same time. Details of the change have now been presented to the county's Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings.Although illegal motorbikers are a major target for the team, they have the capacity to perform a wide range of functions.Supt Paul McCurry, who has been behind the success of the team, said: “While the off road bike team is focusing on these problems, they can be very successful at other things.“We have used them at Christmas markets in Sheffield and the can be used as ‘spotters’,” he said.The success of the team is attributed to the presence of neighbourhood officers and Supt McCurry said it was unlikely the team would be able to operate without those colleagues.They are able to feed through information from communities about the problems residents face, allowing the team to take effective action.That has shown through in the teams performance in tackling what have been notoriously difficult problems in the past.So far this year, the team has put in a total of 3,500 hours on patrol, with 800 of those focused on locations identified as ‘priority locations’.

Nuisance bikers have plagued communities across Sheffield including at Mortomley Park and Angram Bank, High Green.

Police have also seized bikes following incidents of dangerous and uninsured riders in Hillsborough and Stannington as well as issues in Arbourthorne and Gleadless Valley.

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Action men: Police off road bikers ready for an operation

The manoeuvrability of off road motorbikes means they can also be highly effective in some unusual circumstances, such as patrolling the areas outside the perimeters of Doncaster’s four prisons, to help locate those trying to smuggle contraband into the premises.

The team's work also helps to prevent wildlife being disrupted by the activities of bikers and those using 4x4 vehicles off road where they are not permitted to do so.

*Police statistics reveal just how much effort has gone into tackling those who make life miserable for communities through causing problems with illegal motorbiking.While the team is based at the South Yorkshire force’s Operations Complex in Tinsley, they operate across all four policing areas in response to ‘bids’ from local police to help with problems as they occur.Sheffield, with by far the largest population, has accounted for the biggest slice of the team’s attentions, with more than 1,600 hours of patrol time spent there so far this year, from a total of 3,500 hours in the saddle.Those hours can be boiled down to 93 different operations, with 60 stolen vehicles recovered as a result.Another 13 have been taken off the road through having no insurance and eight people have ended up in police custody.Doncaster has accounted for 1,375 hours of patrol time, with 11 stolen vehicles recovered by officers and another ten seized for having no insurance. Eight prisoners have also been taken, from a total of 65 operations across the borough.Rotherham has seen 374 hours of patrol time, with officers deployed in the district on 26 occasions so far during 2019. That has resulted in seven vehicles being taken off the road for having no insurance and three people ending up in custody.In Barnsley, there have been ten deployments, totalling 217 hours of patrol time. One person was taken into custody, with five vehicles seized for being uninsured.In addition, warning notices have been issued to dozens of people across the county, who have been found to be involved in anti-social behaviour.Those warnings mean those involved effectively get a second chance – but do so in the knowledge that if they are found offending again in future, they risk having their vehicle seized.Most have been issued in Doncaster, where 32 people have received a notice, with 21 issued in Sheffield, 13 in Rotherham and six in Barnsley. The force also works in co-operation with others on a 'green lane' warden scheme, which helps to protect rural byways from abuse from illegal bikers, who can cause damage.

*Just as police have employed new tactics by creating an off road bike squad to deal with a long-standing problem, so the technology they use is advancing.While today’s officers use conventional petrol motorbikes, an order has just been placed for two electrically powered versions.The upgrade adds to South Yorkshire Police’s increasingly ‘green’ credentials, but also brings some practical advantages for the force.Supt Paul McCurry said the electric bikes were highly capable machines and removing the need for a noisy petrol engine will give officers the added weapon of silence in the armoury of advantages they can claim.While the bikes may be silent, they will be highly visible because they will be kitted out with flashing lights and police livery before they go into service.A further advantage for police is that the maintenance costs of those machines is lower than their conventional equivalents, despite needing to go to specialist workshops for servicing because the force’s own mechanics do not yet have the skills needed for those machines.