9th Dec, 2016

Plea for action over off-road bikes in Solihull

Solihull Editorial 11th Feb, 2016 Updated: 24th Oct, 2016

“THE police and Solihull Council have got to get a grip before someone is seriously hurt.” Those are the words of a furious campaigner who says illegal off-road biking in the borough is terrorising residents.

Jean Hamilton, Green Party campaigner in Smith’s Wood says she has ‘lost count’ of the number of complaints about masked bikers riding around parks and pavements late at night without lights.

Residents say it is only a matter of time before the numerous close-calls between bikes and pedestrians result in a serious accident.

Meriden Park in Chelmsley Wood has also been particularly hard hit – with bikers churning up large portions of the grass, discouraging members of the public from using it.

Police have put up signs are urging people to contact them anonymously with information that will lead to identifying the bikers.

But Green Councillor for Chelmsley Wood, Coun Chris Williams, said the problem has got worse in recent months and residents’ confidence in police is running very low.

“The problem is very visible and affects the whole community,” he said.

“In one particularly sad case I had a mother with an autistic son come to me and tell me he is scared of leaving the house because the bikers speed up and down the alley next to it.”

At full Council meeting last week (February 2) Coun Williams asked Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson how police were tackling the issue since the disbanding of the force’s specialist off-road unit which used to chase the bikers.

Mr Jamieson said that officers had the power to crush vehicles found being driven without licences, but said a bobby on the beat would not solve the problem.

He added: “As it is a sporadic problem across the West Midlands, we’re looking at new ways the public can report the crime so that we get better intelligence.”

Talks between local councillors, Solihull Council’s chief executive and police resulted in barriers being put up around some parks and green spaces.

But Coun Williams argued the actions had had little affect on the bikers’ actions.

He added: “The police are rightly concerned about big and serious crimes like ethnic violence, drugs and of course child sexual exploitation, but this problem is only going to get worse with time and it’s being totally ignored.

“If people have information, they end up coming to us as councillors, saying they do not trust the police are listening to them.

“How are you meant to fight crime if there’s a fundamental lack of trust in the police?

“The bikers also know that the police will not chase them now and are realising that they can get away with it.

“I think this is a really dangerous message – troublemakers feeling like the police cannot touch them.”