YOUNGSTERS who illegally ride off-road motorbikes face having their machines crushed, police are warning.

Police in County Durham are bracing themselves for an increase in calls about problems caused by the young riders with the start of the school summer holidays.

They are launching a campaign to educate youngsters, who often wear no safety equipment, about the dangers they face and the chance they could lose their wheels if they break the law.

Today (Tuesday, July 22) four machines were fed into a mobile crusher at a scrapyard in Sacriston, near Chester-le-Street.

The bikes were seized from youngsters who had ignored police warnings not to ride in public places.

PCSO Andrea Hodgson, of the Durham City Neighbourhood Team, said: “We had a quad bike, a moped and two off-road pit bikes and everything was crushed.

“We have a huge problem in County Durham with off-road bikes being ridden illegally.

“A lot of the kids that buy these bikes don’t realise that they have to have the landowner’s written permission to ride on their land.

“We have got them riding on public footpaths, public roads, over open spaces.

“They are putting themselves in jeopardy and members of the public in jeopardy. We have had people being ridden at. Then there is the noise issue – a lot of them have illegal exhausts."

Police issue warnings that last for 12 months and if the warning is ignored the machine is seized and can only be reclaimed after paying a release fee of several hundred pounds.

PCSO Hodgson added: “Some of the older kids have younger ones riding with them. I have seen toddlers, two ,three years old riding along on the handlebars. None of them wear any protection. It as dangerous to them as it is to members of the public."