Police are taking an innovative approach to tackle the growing problem of illegal off-road bikers terrorising the estates of Teesside.

As well as relying on the age-old technique of working within the affected communities, Cleveland Police is also using drones to track the bikers and seize the illegal bikes as soon as they ‘go to ground’.

The force’s armoury has also been boosted the use of a specialist team of officers using their own off-road bikes to target problem areas.

Operation Endurance was launched after serious concerns were raised about young riders taking to the roads on illegal bikes and causing havoc in communities.

The Northern Echo: A quad bike and scooter seized by Cleveland Police in HartlepoolA quad bike and scooter seized by Cleveland Police in Hartlepool (Image: Graeme Hetherington, Newsquest)

Temporary Inspector Ian Mitchell has been the driving force behind the initiative to tackle the problem in the east Middlesbrough area where clear evidence of the illegal bike riding can be spotted on any green space.

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“We are targeting off-road bikes being used in anti-social behaviour and crime,” he said. “It is such a major issue that it has got to the point where it has been raised by the community and is now a priority for the Chief Constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner.

“We have recovered quite a lot of off-road bikes and quads since the operation started and there is a full spectrum of ages of people on these bikes.

“It is intimidating for people, they are all in black wearing balaclavas, they ride between traffic, the ride at speed, they go onto pavements – it’s just dangerous.

“It is causing people a lot of alarm and distress and that is why it is a force priority. You can hear them in the distance, they are loud when they are passing you and it is a problem for the community.

“The drone is a relatively new initiative to use them as a spotter so that we are not putting the off-road bikers under pressure – they’re not going to ride in a more dangerous manner put people at risk and we can see where they go to ground and we can pick them up from where they hide the bikes.

“We don’t chase them because we are putting the rider at risk, we are putting the public at risk and we are putting the officers at risk – it’s not worth it.”

The Northern Echo: The quad bike being recovered after it was seized by policeThe quad bike being recovered after it was seized by police (Image: Graeme Hetherington, Newsquest)

As a result of the on-going campaign, around 50 motorbikes have been crushed but the force decided that the latest clampdown would be shown in public to reinforce the message that dangerous, off-road biking will be forcefully tackled.

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As part of the operation, the force launched ‘Back on Track’ which sees young people engage in a six-week educational programme to enhance their knowledge on bikes and quads.

In December, a number of residents turned out to watch the motorbikes being crushed in the car park of Tesco in South Bank as the police sent out a message that their illegal activities will not be tolerated.

The Northern Echo: Illegal bikes being loaded into a crusher after being seized by Cleveland PoliceIllegal bikes being loaded into a crusher after being seized by Cleveland Police (Image: Stuart Boulton, Newsquest)

Temp Insp Mitchell added: “The message we were sending out was ‘this is what is going to happen’. If you are spending a lot of money on an expensive quadbike – upwards of £5,000 – it is going to get crushed if it is on the road illegally.

“If you are acting illegally then the consequences are there to be seen.”