POLICE officers have called in a special team to hunt down off-road bikers.

The Safer Roads Targeting Team use their own motorcycles to find and seize illegal bikes, often seen being ridden on public parks and footpaths.

The group spent Friday, August 31, and Saturday, September 1, patrolling hotspots in Johnson Fold, Leverhulme Park, Longsight Park and Harwood Golf Club as part of Operation Camenca.

Dave Butcher, Greater Manchester Police’s sergeant for Johnson Fold, organised for the team to visit Bolton and plans to continue to bring in the officers to combat off-road biking in the worst-hit areas.

He said: “I am really passionate about working with the residents of Johnson Fold to improve their local community. I know anti-social behaviour on the estate is an issue and a large part of this is associated with the use of illegal off-road bikes.

“I have personally been on the estate and been presented with off-road bikes travelling in the opposite direction, but not been able to pursue them safely because local residents, some of them children, were on the street. However, I have been working towards this off-road bike operation since the middle of June.

“Although my neighbourhood team are keen to tackle this issue, they are not always available and, more importantly, they do not have the necessary skills and training to pursue such vehicles.

“This is why I have been working hard to secure our GMP specialist off-road motorcycle team who are a small unit of officers who cover the whole of Greater Manchester.”

Sgt Butcher also plans to work alongside Bolton at Home and Bolton Council, to discuss plans to target offenders’ tenancies on Johnson Fold estate if they continue to offend.

He added: “I am going to continue to work with the off-road bike team and partners to tackle this issue. I will be looking to bring those offenders to justice and work with Bolton Council’s Anti-Social Behaviour Team and Bolton at Home to consider action in relation to tenancies.

“We do get reports of off-road bike activity, but we need people to send us the details of who is riding the bikes so that we can take action following the incident.”

The off-road bike team was joined in the operation by neighbourhood officers and police community support officers acting on information given by the community.

Only one motorcycle was seized by the team, although officers believe the presence of the unit acted as a deterrent because no off-road bike use was reported over the two days in which the operation took place.

However, Sgt Butcher has urged residents to always make reports to the police if they see illegal bikes on the road.

Officers will ask for as much information on both the rider and the bike as possible, and will use the reports to target new operations in future.

To contact GMP call 101, visit the web chat section of their website or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.