Police are stepping up their fight against the illegal and anti-social use of mini-motos and off-road bikes with the launch of Operation Scrambler in Warrington.
Launching on Tuesday 15 May, the operation will see officers work in collaboration with the Warrington community to tackle the growing problem of youths riding scrambler bikes in an anti-social manner in the town.
There will be increased patrols in hotspot areas, including off-road police bikes, and offenders face the prospect of having their scrambler bikes permanently seized and being prosecuted.
Sergeant Ruth Atherton, who is heading up the operation, said: “Youths riding scrambler bikes in an anti-social manner has been a growing problem in Warrington over the past few years, particularly in the north of the town and particularly during the spring and summer months.
“Riding these bikes through public areas and along busy roads in an anti-social manner is dangerous, for both the rider and other members of the public, and the noise and disruption these nuisance bikes cause is a strong source of frustration for communities.
“With the launch of Operation Scrambler in Warrington I want to reassure residents that we are taking the issue extremely seriously and will be doing all we can to locate those responsible for this sort of behaviour and take positive action where necessary, including seizing bikes and prosecuting offenders.”
Mini-motos are classed as mechanically propelled vehicles by law. This means people who use them must be at last 16 years old, hold the relevant licence and MOT and be covered by insurance.
Police have the power to seize scrambler bikes which are used in a way which causes harassment, alarm or distress, even if the rider has tax and insurance.
A warning is given first, but if that fails to be effective and the bike is used in an anti-social manner again it will be seized under Section 59 of the Police Reform Act.
Scrambler bikes can also be seized if the rider is not insured or has not paid their road tax, and to be on the road the bike needs all the usual equipment to be fitted and working – for example, lights, brakes, brake lights, a horn, a speedometer, good tyres and registration plates. These are required even if it is being pushed.
Linda Smallthwaite, Warrington Borough Council’s investigations and enforcement manager, said: “Different laws apply to the supply of mini-motos depending on whether they are intended for use on or off-road and whether they are designed or intended for children under 14 to use in play.
“These laws are in place to ensure that they are safe to use in the environment and by the age group they are intended for. They could be a danger to the rider, especially children and youths if the bike is too powerful for them.
“Historically, counterfeit mini motos were sold that did not comply with EU and UK laws, meaning that their safety could not be guaranteed.”
As part of Operation Scrambler, Trading Standards will be reminding petrol station staff of their legal responsibilities to ensure they do not supply under 16s with petrol.
Police youth engagement officers will also be visiting schools to educate young people on the dangers and consequences of riding scrambler bikes in an anti-social manner.
Sergeant Atherton said: “We are working with housing associations, youth workers and Trading Standards to tackle this growing issue as effectively as possible, but we also need the public’s help.
“We have set up a dedicated email address for residents to provide intelligence for Operation Scrambler and are specifically appealing for detailed descriptions or photographs of any bikes and riders that are causing a nuisance.
“We also want any information in relation to where these bikes are being stored and key factors regarding the rider, such as a detailed description of them and what they are wearing as well as potential names.
“These details can be invaluable to our investigations and it is important that as much information as possible is passed onto us.”
Police will also utilise a unique crime-fighting tool as part of Operation Scrambler in a bid to deter youths from riding off-road bikes.
The SelectaDNA forensic coding spray enables police officers and police community support officers (PCSOs) to mark riders and their bikes and trace them back to anti-social behaviour at a later date.
The sprays are an invisible dye, which marks the skin, clothing and bike. Officers can then use specialist lighting to identify offenders and link them to a specific incident using a unique DNA code.
Police will look to prosecute anyone found to have been marked by one of the sprays or owning a scrambler bike that has been sprayed.
If a scrambler bike is found to have been sprayed on more than one occasion it will be permanently seized by the police.
Sergeant Atherton said: “The forensic coding spray can be used to spray offenders riding past officers on scrambler bikes with proof that they have committed anti-social behaviour.
“The sprays mark riders and bikes for a significant period of time and enable us to trace and prosecute them.
“We hope the fact that there will be increased patrols targeting youths riding scrambler bikes in Warrington, and the fact that officers and PCSOs will be carrying the sprays, will deter young people from riding the bikes in an anti-social manner."
Anyone with any information in relation to the illegal or anti-social use of scrambler bikes in the town is urged to contact the Warrington Local Policing Unit.
You can do this in a number of ways:
- Speak directly to a local officer whilst they are out and about on patrol in your local area
- Pass on information and photographs of bikes and riders to the dedicated email address that has been set up to support the operation – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call 101, quoting ‘Operation Scrambler’.
If you do not want to speak directly to the police you can call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111. In an emergency you should dial 999.