POLICE in Darlington plan to use drones to tackle the menace of off-road biking.

This month, Darlington officers will begin to fly a small number of drones once a week as their crackdown on nuisance bikers continues.

It is hoped that the drones will help to capture images that can be used to identify individuals breaking the law and to find where bikes are being stored.

The move was announced at a public meeting on Saturday, called by Cllr Kevin Nicholson in response to his being “inundated with complaints” over off-road bikes.

Members of the public were given the opportunity to raise their concerns with Neighbourhood Inspector Chris Knox and his colleagues on the force.

The meeting saw a number of young bikers confronted by residents who spelled out the impact of their behaviour and how it disturbed their neighbourhoods and presented a potential risk to life.

In response, the bikers asked the authorities to consider providing a safe place for them to indulge their hobby.

Insp Knox said it had proved to be a valuable meeting, as he once again urged the community to provide intelligence that could help the force to apprehend offenders and seize bikes.

He said reports this year had dropped and that he believed it was a reflection of the public not having enough confidence to contact the police.

He reassured those present that response times to 101 calls would improve with the recent recruitment of new call handlers and stressed that officers were taking the matter seriously, with it being treated as a ‘sector target’, meaning all departments were involved in addressing the issue.

Insp Knox said he was also hoping to be able to train some officers to use bikes that would allow them to access hotspots of anti-social behaviour relating to off-road biking.

He added: “The meeting was quite positive and I would like to thank Cllr Nicholson for bringing the community together.”

Following the meeting, Cllr Nicholson said he was still not convinced that Durham Constabulary was taking the issue seriously and said some forces employed an ‘immediate response’ to off-road biking reports.

He urged Darlington officers to do the same, adding: “They say it is a priority but they are not going to prioritise it as an immediate response. So I came away thinking, if it’s never going to be a priority, it’s never going to be resolved.”

To report problems with off-road biking, call 101 or email opendurance@durham.pnn.police.uk.