The scourge of off-road bikes in County Durham communities is “horrifically difficult to tackle”, concerned residents have been warned.

Reducing anti-social behaviour has been identified as one of the three key priorities across the region by local authorities. 

A Safer and Stronger Communities committee meeting on Tuesday was told hate crime and violence and sexual offences have also been identified as key areas of focus, as part of the Safe Durham Partnership. 

Councillors from across the county told of the impact nuisance off-road bikers are having on communities, from the repeated disruption and damage to public spaces. 

The Northern Echo: Durham Constabulary's Operation Endurance initiative aims to tackle issues with off-road bikesDurham Constabulary's Operation Endurance initiative aims to tackle issues with off-road bikes (Image: Durham Constabulary)

Councillor Liz Maddison, of Spennymoor ward, said: “Off-road bikes are causing a nuisance in the town and also the wooded areas. They seem to ignore any requests to stop, especially in the woodland. They are churning the paths up and they are becoming mud tracks. 

“What enforcement can we introduce in the woodland to stop the bikes from destroying the countryside and habitats?”

The Independent member’s concerns were echoed by Cllr Lucy Hovvels, of Trimdon and Thornley, but she warned that residents are now less likely to report every incident.

“Less and less people are coming forward,” she said. “There seems to be an acceptance in communities now.”

And the illegal use of off-road bikes has had a snowball effect in the community. Cllr Hovvels said football matches were cancelled on Sunday after Ludworth playing field was torn up by bikes.

The Labour member said she has spent the majority of her councillor allowance on combating anti-social behaviour in the community but it isn’t enough. 

Cllr Hovvels added: “How much has it cost this council to repair the criminal damage and how much is it costing the authorities in time and resources to address the problem? All that money is being spent and yet we’re still draining council resources and finances to tackle the issue.”

The alarming insight into how off-road bikes are negatively impacting communities lead to Superintendent Neal Bickford admitting that the issue is “horrifically difficult to tackle”. 

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Supt Bickford added: “We have tried an awful lot of things. If anyone thinks it’s simple then, politely, you don’t understand the problem. I would invite anybody who thinks there’s something that we haven’t tried to get in touch because I’m very open to that challenge. I absolutely understand the frustration.”

Anti-social behaviour was the second most common reported crime in County Durham in 2023, behind violence and sexual offences. At 15.7 incidents per 1,000 people, the rate is lower than the rest of the North East but higher than the England average. Better education and understanding around the illegal usage of off-road bikes is needed, the meeting heard. 

Supt Bickford added: “It’s our residents’ parents who are buying those bikes and facilitating it. We need everybody's support in addressing [the issue]. We have a very polarised society with people who think it’s absolutely fine.”