By Richard Evans
NORTH Wales Police’s top cop has pledged to look into whether officers on off-road bikes could help crack down on a town’s scrambler scourge.
Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman was asked during a meeting of the North Wales Police and Crime Panel about the issue of youths riding bikes illegally and dangerously around Abergele.
Conwy county councillor Alan Hunter said they were driving off-road through woodland, and also using roads around the town.
In March, the Local Democracy Reporting Service reported how the motorcyclists were riding around the ancient forest behind Gwrych Castle in the Tan y Gopa Woods and Coed Plas Uchaf woodland.
Residents said the bikers were destroying the forest floor and running over bluebells and wild garlic.
Consequently North Wales Police investigated after landowners complained of trespassing, noise, fumes, and fires being lit.
There were also complaints about bikers riding on public roads between Abergele and Old Colwyn without wearing helmets.
Cllr Hunter suggested that trained officers should use off-road bikes to catch the culprits before a pedestrian was seriously hurt.
The subject was broached after a discussion about electric scooters being used illegally on public roads and electric bikes also being a problem.
Cllr Hunter said petrol bikes were the main problem in and around Abergele.
“In my area, around Abergele on the North Wales coast, it’s not just electric (bikes); it’s petrol-engine bikes,” he said.
“We’ve had some horrendous problems around there with groups of youths, riding in public parks, on the promenade.
“The impression I’m getting is that the police can’t engage. They have to work from intelligence on where the bikes are being stored.
“Some of the youths are riding these bikes absolutely horrendously, dangerously in and out of traffic, and if they lose control, and the bike ploughs into people on the pavement and, worst case scenario, kills them, then it’s going to be a case of (people saying) the police weren’t doing anything.
“I understand the difficulty you have, but there really needs to be better terms of engagement to actually stop these bikes.”
Cllr Hunter said officers in Wrexham already had two off-road bikes, suggesting they should be shared across areas to catch illegal bikers.
He added: “Now my understanding is for an officer to be able to ride one of those bikes, they have to be in traffic division and have to take an advanced course.
“So that is something I’d like to see brought to the fore, so you can actually engage with them, and they can be chased.”
Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman said she would consider the idea.
“We do quite a lot of operations around off-road bikes, in terms of the petrol-driven bikes that are being used or driven either dangerously on the road – in which case we’ll look to prosecute them for the offences which they are committing – or off-road, in which they are causing a huge amount of damage and also disorder and distress to people,” she said.
“And we do quite a lot of operations around that.
“Part of the All-Wales Rural Crime Strategy is around that particular area, and we do use drones.
“We do use all our capability to try and identify those individuals and those bikes, remove them, and crush them.
“It is an ongoing issue, one in which we have to rely on our officers on the ground to make decisions on, in relation to what’s safe and what’s not.
“I take your point in terms of officers being trained in terms of riding off-road bikes.
“They are officers who have had an additional course to be able to ride off-road bikes, and we will look at that to see if there’s a need for that in other areas.”