A SPECIALIST taskforce have put down their handcuffs and picked up a paint brush in a bid to crackdown on motorcycle thefts.

Operation Benelli was set up by Northumbria Police to tackle an increase in violent crime linked to motorcycles in the region and was a huge success.

It came after a number of reports that teenage criminals committing opportunistic thefts in Newcastle and Gateshead.

Hundreds of stolen motorcycles have been recovered and dozens of suspects have been arrested and put before the courts. Now the officers have pulled on their painting overalls visiting hospitals, universities and local businesses to spray paint crime prevention messages.

Detective Inspector Tam Fowler, who heads up Northumbria Police’s crack squad, said: “Over the past twelve months we have built some really positive relationships with the motorcycle community.

“We need motorcyclists to keep their bikes properly locked. A simple steering lock isn’t deterring these thieves so we would suggest investing in a proper disc lock."

“That is why we are going out and spray painting these messages with the support of some of the region’s biggest businesses."

You can call 101 and asking to speak to the Operation Benelli team or report information online at the Northumbria Police website.