Off-roaders end year in river

Latest arrests in WMP offensive against lout bikers.

Three bike louts rounded off 2017 on a damp note as their attempt to evade West Midlands Police officers on New Year’s Eve ended with them careering into a river.

Traffic cops were flagged down at 3pm by members of the public reporting a group of more than twenty off-road bikes being ridden dangerously in Hodge Hill. Officers arrived to find the riders − all on scramble type bikes − performing stunts on public roads and using the Clock Island roundabout on Newport Road as their own ‘skid pan’. They made off in different directions but the officers managed to follow four of them to parkland off Hodge Hill Road where, in a botched bid to escape, three of them ended up in the water.

Men aged 19, 20 and 24 were arrested at the scene on suspicion of causing a public nuisance and their bikes seized. They were allowed to go on their way but will be called back in for questioning at a later date. A fourth rider managed to make off and enquiries are on-going to trace him, while video footage from the force helicopter will be reviewed in a bid to identify the other offenders.

West Midlands Police Traffic Sergeant Laura Floyd, said: “We had several calls from the public concerned that these riders were posing a danger to the public; some reported how dog walkers and people using the park had to take evasive action to avoid being hit. It’s simply not acceptable. These are public roads…not stunt tracks for bikers to tear-up on their off-road bikes.

“Sadly for these three offenders they ended 2017 on a very wet and cold note. And it could get much worse for them next year as we’ll be looking to prosecute them for causing a public nuisance. That’s a serious offence and one that has ended recently with people being jailed.”

West Midlands Police has a dedicated operation − codenamed Operation Wraithbane − to tackle anti-social off-road biking. It’s already seen 18 men and a teenager charged with causing public nuisance and awaiting trial, while many more remain on police bail and also face being taken to court.

And the force has also equipped officers with a DNA spray which is used to ‘tag’ offenders and their bikes. The DNA liquid is invisible but illuminates under UV light and allows officers to identify yobs and seize their bikes. Each canister has a unique ‘barcode’ which means police can trace suspects to a particular crime or incident of anti-social behaviour.

West Midlands Police Chief Superintendent Dave Sturman leads Operation Wraithbane. He said: “There is no justification for this type of behaviour; they risk serious injury to themselves and other members of the public. Police video footage from a recent so-called Ride Out event shows bikes ramping up kerbs and speeding along pavements close to pedestrians − including a line of schoolchildren − stopping traffic, running red lights, and riding over roundabouts. This is lawless behaviour and we won’t tolerate it.

“Communities across the West Midlands are telling us they are sick and tired of this kind of behaviour − that’s why we have a dedicated police operation to tackle the problem, we’re catching and prosecuting offenders, seizing and destroying bikes, and using innovative tactics to identify offenders such as DNA spray.”