COUNCILLORS have quizzed a deputy police and crime commissioner about 999 responses and using drones to catch criminals.

Councillor Doris Jones said she was still waiting for a 999 response after reporting motorcyclists not wearing helmets leaving a petrol station without paying for fuel.

The bikers were an "absolute nuisance" making people feel intimidated, she told a Darlington Borough Council meeting.

Durham's deputy police and crime commissioner Nigel Bryson replied they wanted to hear about issues with 999 calls.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Doris Jones. Picture: Stuart Boulton.Cllr Doris Jones. Picture: Stuart Boulton.

He said: "We are actually monitoring 999 and 101 calls because we believe that in some instances, there isn't enough coverage to give the kind of service which we should have."

He said on bikes: "There has been some targeting. There has been some success."

He said they were working on improving intelligence and video evidence including support for "Operation Snap", where members of the public can send in high-quality footage of bad driving.

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Councillor Andy Keir, the council's cabinet member for local services, then referred to discussion of new technology, "specifically drones" as an alternative to tying police officers up in high-speed chases.

He said: "It seems to be eminently sensible to me. I just don't see where we have had any benefit from that technology to date.

"Where you have kids on quad bikes or motorbikes or adults who are fleeing from petrol stations, rather than having a squad car or two squad cars chasing those individuals, you get a drone up there.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Andy Keir. Picture: Northern Echo.Cllr Andy Keir. Picture: Northern Echo.

"You wait to see where they go to and then you've got the evidence as to where the individuals live.

"They can just follow, see where they go then go and pick them up.

"If it's just a couple of kids on a quad bike and they're making nuisance and they go home, at least you can go there without causing any problems. 

"I'm just a bit disappointed the police haven't started using this technology more effectively or publicising it if they have.

"That would seem to me to be the way forward.

"I think that would be a great step forward if we started use technology to help the police reduce the number of police chases etc.

"It seems to me that's a more positive way of going to get results."

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Mr Bryson replied: "A very valid point. It's part of a package of new technologies that police have.

"What we've got to do is try and link where different cameras are and get intelligence."

He said police were already trialling it, quite often in rural areas.

He said it was difficult to use the technology safely in the pursuit of offenders and a police aviation group was looking into how drones should be used and maintained.

"We cannot have a situation where one of them drops out of the sky and hits somebody," he added.

"We've got to have a series of measures in place.

"But the work is being done. Drones are being piloted."

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He said they could soon be used across the country to catch criminals.

"I appreciate the frustration but I have high hopes that over the next couple of years they will become increasingly more commonly used.

"Not just simply by themselves but in association with other technologies that we have, so that we can more effectively track where these bikers and quad bikers are going to catch them in the act.

"So there is work going on. Drones have been used. Pilots are going on.

"But I share your sense of frustration that we've not yet got to the point where these are common technologies being used by Durham."

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