Police waging war on anti-social bikers in Sheffield have seized nearly 40 vehicles
Police targeting nuisance off-road bikers in Sheffield say they are making inroads but need more help from the communities affected.
South Yorkshire Police last year beefed up its off-road team, following a surge in the number of complaints about antisocial bikers menacing estates.
Extra officers were trained at riding off-road vehicles so they can pursue the culprits, and, in a pilot project, a small team dedicated to tackling problems within Sheffield was created.
PC Jamie Walker, who since August last year has been part of that three-person team, says the new focus is paying dividends.
Since August, 97 warnings have been issued, 37 bikes seized, 24 stolen vehicles recovered and seven arrests made.
The number of incidents reported involving off-road bikes dropped by 54 per cent from August to September last year, and by 50 per cent between October and November.
"The figures and the feedback we're getting suggest we're having an impact, but we're not going to stop what we're doing because it's too big a problem," he said.
The issue reared its head earlier this month when quad bikers rampaged through Gleadless Valley tearing up the turf and splattering homes with mud.
PC Walker said officers had 'an inkling' about who might be responsible but they needed the public to be their 'eyes and ears' and help bring the culprits to justice.
Police can arrest people and seize their vehicles if they are caught driving on public land, or if they lack the required documentation for their vehicles, including proof of insurance and a driving licence.
Officers are also keen to bring a test case to court for criminal damage to grassland caused by off-road bikers like those in Gleadless Valley.
"We've asked the parks and woodland service to write us an impact statement because they spend an inordinate amount of time and money each year repairing the damage caused by bikers to public land," said PC Walker.
At the weekend, the off-road team patrolled Westwood Country Park and Thorpe Hesley, off Smithy Wood Road, following complaints about anti-social bikers upsetting members of the public there. They issued several warnings at the two sites, and at the latter location seized a motorbike and found two burned-out vehicles which are believed to have been stolen.
PC Walker claims there is a hardcore group of criminal bikers whom police are determined to stop but many others do not realise they are acting illegally and potentially distressing other citizens.
He says a big part of the team's job is educating people about where they can and can't ride, and what they need to do so legally.
That is why they often issue warnings in the first instance, as they don't wish to 'alienate' those who were unaware they were doing anything wrong.
The team is producing a leaflet explaining the laws, which officers plan to hand out to bikers and other members of the public.
* If you have information about off-road bikers causing problems where you live, you should call police on 101. You can also contact the off-road team directly via its Facebook page, but any alleged offences should be reported via 101.