The difficulties of tackling the problem with routine patrols is obvious so since 2001 Durham Police motorcycle section has taken a pro-active approach to solving this problem by patrolling on off road motorcycles.
The current fleet are Honda CRF 450’s which have been specifically designed to cater for the demanding conditions they are required to patrol on a regular basis.
In addition they must pass a demanding annual off road assessment, which is designed to ensure they are fully prepared to deal with the off road hazards they will come across whilst out patrolling.
Over the course of close to 6,000 hours of patrols across the force area they have issued 1,250 warning notices which are used as an initial warning to advise riders of the law in relation to the use of off road bikes and quads.
Many riders believe they are doing nothing wrong and are riding in areas they believed they had permission to be on or they are on land that is locally known as “waste” land.
In reality however there is no such thing as waste land if riders are using land then they need permission form the land owner. Advice is given to the riders about where they can ride and what permission they require from landowners before using it.
Educating riders first and foremost has always been the preferred option of the Motorcycle Section and the majority of riders are receptive and welcome the advice given.
To read about our 'Day Out With The TRF' please - click here
For further off road advice please click here
Despite the advice and warnings however some riders simply won’t take a warning and have to be dealt with more severely; as a consequence there have been 128 seizure notices handed out to riders who have chosen to ignore the advice given.
On these occasions the rider’s bike are seized and a payment must then be made to the recovery operator for the return of their machine. If no payment is received then the bikes are crushed.
If other offences are being committed, such as riding on the road with no insurance or riding otherwise than in accordance with a driving licence then the officers will also deal with them by way of fixed penalty tickets, reporting the riders for the offences.
In addition many of these machines are not maintained and are in a dangerous mechanical condition making them potential death traps whilst others have a dubious past; in which case these are seized as suspect stolen.
WORKING TOGETHER WITH LOCAL COMMUNITIES
By working with our local residents and communities we have been able to target our off road patrols to areas where residents have most concerns regarding illegal off road motorcycles or quads reflected in either the number of calls to the police or through concerns raised at local PACT meetings.
By working in this way and using the information provided we have been able to reassure communities about what we can deliver challenging offending behaviour and making a real difference to the quality of lives of those affected. In particular residents of Evenwood and Thornley recently benefitted from PACT priorities where nuisance / off road motorcycles were becoming a menace in their neighbourhoods.
In partnership with the local Neighbourhood Police Teams we were able to target the areas in question and reassure the communities that their concerns were being dealt with in an appropriate manner.
The graph below shows the total hours patrolled, 1st warnings issued and bikes seized during 2001 and November 2010.
WORKING TOGETHER WITH RIDERS
We understand that teenagers flying around on a housing estate are not in the same category as a rider practising trail or trials riding in local woodland.
The difficulty is however that the law makes no differentiation between the two scenarios both can be interpreted as anti social whether it is the associated noise experienced by residents or the damage to footpaths and local eco systems that the machines cause. Many areas of seemingly innocuous woodland are protected and classed as Sites of Special Scientific Interest whilst many of the beaches which seem to be an ideal venue are also protected. Fells to the west of the county whilst presenting themselves as a wide open space are often either protected or are used to raise game birds.
The fact is that it is a very real source of income for the local communities and gamekeepers and locals alike are keen to report illegal off road riders.
There are however a number of legal routes across the county known as Byways that are open to motorised off road use which can generally be identified on an Ordnance Survey map. In addition the Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF) is an active organisation lobbying for riders rights to ride off road often monitoring routes that should be open and they are keen to promote responsible off road riding for all often organising regular off road trail rides.
Please remember to ride lawfully and always show respect to others by riding in the correct places not causing damage to the wildlife or the environment.
In addition in response to a surge in calls complaining about mini bikes and recognising that youngsters were extremely limited in terms of venues and opportunities to ride we established the BikeWise Mini Bike Club in January 2007.
The club has become a well established and flourishing entity in its own right offering a genuine legal option for youngsters to enjoy their machines using a range of venues across the area.
For further information on the Min Bike Club go to the mini bike section of the website.