Nuisance bikers attracting 'more than 1,000 complaints a year' in Doncaster

It is an issue that gets residents hot under the collar all across Doncaster.

By David Kessen
Friday, 19 July, 2019, 15:26

From Conisbrough to Stainforth, and Askern to Bawtry nuisance bikers are seen as a major issue by residents.

And today, police have revealed how they intend to step up the fight against a problem which officers admit probably attracts well over 1,000 complaints a year across the borough.

Officers are expanding the number of officers trained to join their own specialist off-road unit – and looking at bringing in a team of volunteer wardens to deter those who cause problems in rural areas.

Insp Craig Clifton and PC Simon Cooper of the South Yorkshire off road team, at Doncaster Police Station

The most recent figures available to the police record 770 complaints about nuisance bikers in the borough – but the officer in charge of the team set up to deal with the riders admits there are probably many more.

The figures come from April 2017 to April 2018.

Insp Craig Clifton, who heads a team of officers trained up to use the force’s own fleet of off-road bikes to stop the nuisances riders, said: “Those figures are based on calls to 101. I think when you take into account complaints that appear on social media as well, the figure probably runs comfortably into the thousands.

“A lot of the complaints are on social media, and we are now looking for those to feed them back into the figures and into our response.”

With his motorcycle gear on, Insp Clifton does not look like the traditional image of a police inspector. Like his officers, he dons the off-road style helmet, and chunky motorbike boots. In many respects, the motorbikes they ride look exactly the same as those ridden by the nuisance bikers they are trying to stop. The only major difference is discreet flashing blue lights.

His team was set up in the summer of 2017. Two of those are dedicated Doncaster officers, who are also supported by a central team. There are also a further four Doncaster officers trained up to work with the off road team as and when they are required.

Another five officers in the borough are being trained to join the pool of occasional members of the team. They share eight off road bikes and a quad bike. They also have a van that moves them from place to place.

There are plans in the future to bring in electric bikes – both for environmental reasons, and because they are quieter, so nuisance riders would not be able to hear them coming.

The team of officers are funded by both the police’s own budgets and a contribution from Doncaster Council.

PC Simon Cooper, another member of the team said demand warranted the number of officers.

He said: “In Doncaster it is mainly antisocial behaviour use in quarries, off road tracks and pit tips where the issue is.There are regular sites we go to in Stainforth, Askern, Armthorpe, Bentley, Steetley Quarry, Cadeby, Mexborough – the list could include pretty much everywhere in Doncaster. It is an issue in deprived communities and wealthier communities.”

The team operate in Doncaster for a minimum of two days a week, frequently more. Where they go is based on information provided by the local police teams.

When they do go out into a community, it is not just to take action against the nuisance bikers, says Insp Clifton. If they see one, they will act – but they take a broader role.

He said: “We are high visibility so that the people can see we’re active in their community. While we are there we are policing in the community. We are there to do a job but with an off road bike.

“We will stop cars for motoring offences, like driving with mobile phones or driving with no insurance. We will do stop and search, and make arrests if people are driving while disqualified or in possession of drugs.

“People know there is a capability to deal with nuisance bikers now.

“Generally its about being smarter than the bikers, so we can corral them and make sure they can’t escape. There are not many that get away. The advice to them is to stop, because the last thing that we want is for anyone to get hurt.”

If a nuisance biker is caught, they will be given a warning. If they gets caught again inside 12 months, their bike will be seized.

If the bike is stolen, they will be arrested. If they have no insurance or licence, they will have their bike seized, but may be able to get it back if they get their licence and insurance within 19 days. After that it will be destroyed.

“There are five off-road tracks in Doncaster that people could be using,” said Insp Clifton. “We tell them that. We also educate them about groups like the Trail Riders Fellowship, who show them where they can ride if they have a licence and are respectful to others.”

In Doncaster, since the off road team was set up they have issued 198 warnings for antisocial use, and seized 23 bikes for the same reason.

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Another 37 bikes have been seized because the riders had no licence or insurance.

On top of that, they have recovered 49 stolen motorcycles, and 52 people have been charged with an offence.

And they have arrested 17 people for antisocial behaviour, potentially including possession of drugs, or motoring offences like driving while disqualified.

Insp Clifton said: “The biggest thing is that it is giving message to the public that we are out there, visible in our tabbards, in areas where people have reported antisocial behaviour, and that is something that you cannot measure.”

Neighbourhoods support

Insp Mark Payling is a big advocate of the off-road team.

The neighbourhood inspector for Doncaster East, he finds the issue of off road bikes and quads is regularly raised by residents and local farmers.

He said: “We have received complaints where bikes have been ridden dangerously or without any consideration for other people in the vicinity. We have also received complaints from farmers who have suffered damage to their crops, fencing and hedges, as well as incidents where poaching have occurred and livestock has been killed. It is easy to underestimate the impact of anti-social behaviour involving motorcycles has on the community as well as the financial implications for our farmers.”

‘Wardens’ plan to crack down on anti-social bikers

A team of volunteer wardens could help the fight against nuisance bikers across Doncaster.

Police and council bosses are looking at bringing in ‘green lane wardens’ – trusted members of the rural communities who can report issues back to the police in rural parts of the borough.

The idea is that they could help liaise over issues – not just of nuisance biking, but also things like hare coursing or fly tipping. Talks have been held between the council and the police.

The proposal is for a trial scheme in partnership with Doncaster Council to tackle anti-social motorcyclists in the borough, and has been developed through partnership work between officers from the police Operational Support Unit, the local authority and the Trail Riders Fellowship.

It was was sparked by concerns about misuse of ‘green lanes’ and off road riding in the Doncaster area, said Insp Payling.

A number of volunteer ‘wardens’ have already been recruited. They would provide a high visibility presence in the areas of nuisance beahviour related to off-road bikes and quads.

The wardens will be patrolling, advising people about rights of access and reporting incidents to the council and the police.

Insp Payling said: “They will in essence be the eyes and ears of the authorities, thereby increasing the chances of being reported when riding illegally. The ‘Green Lane Warden Scheme’ aims to support local and national park authorities in reducing illegal and anti-social use of motorcycles on green roads, rights of way and other land not forming parts of a road.”

Case study

Among the areas which have been affected by nuisance bikers is Jubilee Fields in Hatfield.

Hatfield resident and town councillor Bill Morrison said it had been an issue for a long time.

He said: “By misuse I mean the problem of off road bikes, quads and even land rovers driving onto the field and basically ploughing it up. The Town Council are currently looking at ways of securing the perimeter to make the area safe for dog walkers and equally important the children using the play area.

“These problems are not unique to Hatfield, every council throughout the land are combating the idiot element within our society. Riding bikes etcetera in such areas is destructive and dangerous and very expensive to eliminate. Hatfield Town Council would love to fence the entire perimeter but the cost of many thousands of pounds is proving prohibitive.”