Antisocial off-road bikers must be stopped in their tracks

A core part of my role as a Member of Parliament is to advocate for the safety and protection of my constituents. Indeed, the principal role of Government is to ensure safety and security of all citizens. One such threat to citizens feeling of safety and security is antisocial behaviour, and in particular that posed by the misuse of off-road bikes and quad bikes.

In Darlington, as is the case across the country, we are seeing the dangerous misuse of quad and motor bikes being used by people intent on causing terror and fear. They are being used by criminals wearing balaclavas or masks to evade police detection. They are being used and modified create a noise nuisance and make people fear for their safety in our communities.

Let me be very clear, quads and off-road bikes are fantastic pieces of equipment. They are great for going scrambling on and are vital pieces of equipment for farmers to get around their land. The issues that we are seeing are caused by criminals misusing and abusing these things. To protect our farmers, scramblers, livestock and communities; we must end these pieces of equipment getting in the wrong hands and making sure that those who break the law suffer the consequences of their actions.

I do not believe that any politician can sit by whilst these bikers are sailing through red lights, riding on pavements, displaying no lights, causing great distress and often are trafficking drugs. It is a miracle we have not yet seen the tragic death of a pedestrian or rider or both such is the danger this issue poses. I will not wait around until such an event happens and which is why I continue to raise this issue and recently had a Westminster Hall debate on the topic.

There are certain things that I believe we could do to stop this criminal activity which is frankly out of hand.

First of all, we must not allow criminals to be able to lay their hands on the bikes. This is why I advocate a registration and tracking system in these vehicles. I believe that this would not negatively affect those who use these vehicles properly and would help protect our farmers who see about £3 million worth of their vehicles stolen each year. This would also ensure that, for those who misuse vehicles, we can track them, remove the vehicles and sentence the offenders at pace.

In order to stop previous offenders being able to reoffend, we must not only track vehicles but also stop the merry go round of vehicles that were seized by police being auctioned off which so often sees them getting back into the hands of those who they were seized from. This is a completely outrageous state of affairs. The system must be changed so that police do not have to rely on recouping the costs of seizure and storage this way and instead our forces need a ringfenced pot of money to enable them to crush these vehicles and meet the costs of recovery.

Due to the nature of this crime, it is usually not safe to physically chase offenders. Innovative solutions are needed, and I was very impressed by my local police force who use high powered drones which can see over considerable distances to help track perpetrators, enabling the police to safely arrest offenders without the need to engage in a dangerous Hollywood like chase on the streets. The usage of drones, which has been highly effective in Darlington, should be expanded and resources given to forces who would benefit from such things.

Lastly, there is the issue of 999 and 101 response times. Due to the fast-moving nature of these criminals, we need to ensure that those affected can get through to the services to report offenders as quickly as possible. Due to long waits, people being disturbed, injured, and otherwise affected by off road bikers are often left distressed without the assurance that they need whilst the criminals zoom off and drive through justice being served.

We must take this issue seriously. It has gone on for too long and it is getting worse. We need deterrents, we need justice and we need safe communities.

Peter Gibson MP

Peter Gibson is the Conservative MP for Darlington, and was elected in 2019.