THE “scourge” of off-road motorbikes is now affecting the whole of Darlington, it has been claimed, as a commissioner was urged to oversee a redoubling of efforts to crack down on offenders.
More than two decades after police and Darlington Borough Council launched efforts to prevent children illegally riding the vehicles near Red Hall, councillors have told Acting Durham Police and Victims Commissioner Steve White that residents are still suffering from the menace.
In 2004, the force said in addition to Red Hall, it was being called to off-road incidents in Springfield Park, Firthmoor and Skerne Park.
Despite numerous initiatives, in 2018, a public meeting was held after police operations to tackle the issue were criticised as ineffective. Councillor Kevin Nicholson claimed it was becoming “clear that illegal riders go unchallenged in Darlington”.
Last February, in a fresh attempt to stop the illegal riding, a police operation targeting nuisance bikers resulted in five off-road bikes and mopeds being seized, including one being ridden by a 12-year-old boy. They also seized a quad bike, being ridden by a man in his 40s who had a seven-year-old boy sat on the front.
In addition, last year the Durham force invested in DNA spray to mark offenders’ bikes, skin and clothing if they refuse to stop to provide forensic evidence.
But councillor Chris McEwan told a meeting of the authority residents were continuing to suffer from illegal off-road riders. He said: “Clearly it is an absolute scourge across the town. It’s not just a Haughton and Springfield issue.”
Councillor Matthew Snedker added residents, and in particular those in the Baydale Beck area, had repeatedly complained about quad bikes. Both councillors highlighted to Mr White the importance of the police pro-actively working with communities to gather intelligence. Mr White called on residents to report incidents, “no matter how trivial” as this would enable the force to develop intelligence on offenders.
The force has previously said one difficulty in tackling the offence was that in the majority of the cases they respond to the bikes have gone by the time officers arrive.
Police have also urged residents to send any dash cam or mobile phone footage they have of people illegally using off-road bikes. Mr White said: “Quad bikes and off-road motorcycles are very difficult to police. It’s easy to know about it because of the noise, but catching those responsible is quite difficult. One of the tools that we have at our disposal, particularly if we have intelligence, is the use of drones.
“It is very easy as a resident to be annoyed by the quad bike and to find it frustrating and then not contact the police. I accept that sometimes it’s not as easy to contact the police as it should be, but that’s part of the strategy for our infrastructure that I’m aiming to address.”