A new police initiative aimed at tackling off-road motorbikes and antisocial behaviour has been praised by one victim who has been plagued by the problem for years.
Police in Sunderland and South Tyneside recently revealed they will be trialling an innovative DNA spray which can ‘tag’ offenders and link them to unsolved crimes.
Officers will carry canisters containing an invisible water-based UV solution which can spray riders’ skin, clothes or bikes with a uniquely-coded dye. This can then provide forensic evidence to link individuals or items to a specific crime.
The initiative, used by 13 other forces in the UK, will initially be trialled in Sunderland and South Tyneside but could be rolled out elsewhere across Northumbria if it is deemed successful.
Keith Ahmed, who lives in South Shields, says off-road bikes have caused havoc near his home for the last 10 years and has welcomed the police’s new tactic.
“It is a very positive move,” the 75-year-old said. “When you see people on these bikes tearing around the local parks, your knee-jerk reaction is always to ask where the police are.
“But it’s been a really difficult issue for police to tackle. Officers can’t chase the bikes for safety reasons and sometimes the individuals have sped off into the distance before any action can be taken.
“We’ve had problems with off-road motorbikes for a long time now. It can be intimidating, and when you confront the riders, they can circle you as you’re walking through the park – it can be frightening for some people.
“So it’s great to hear about this DNA spray, and I think it’s something that the community needs to get on board with and support. It’s been used elsewhere in the country and has been successful – so hopefully that will be the case here too.”
Early trends suggest the message is spreading too.
In the week immediately after the DNA spray was launched (September 19), police received just one complaint in South Tyneside involving off-road bikes – compared to 10 in the same week in 2017.
In Sunderland, in the week following the launch, seven reports were made to police – a 64% reduction from the same period last year.
Temporary Superintendent Barrie Joisce, of Northumbria Police, said: “We are actively looking to target offenders who ride around on motorbikes committing crime and destroying the fabric of our communities.
“We are confident that this innovative new DNA spray will lead to more seizures and convictions to help make our region a safer and more enjoyable place to live.”