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Quad SquadPolice quad bike patrol - working in partnership for a safer coast
Last summer you may have noticed the police quad bike patrol on the Sefton Coast, Rimrose Valley and Aintree Wet-Lands. Andrew Johnson is this year joined by a new partner, Alan Williamson, who have served 22 years and 19 years respectively with the police force. They will be patrolling these areas from April to October working in partnership with the National Trust, English Nature and Sefton Council.
In the past it had been difficult for the police to respond to problems in these areas because of issues with access and the limitations of legislation available for them to use. Following a particularly bad day on the National Trust site a couple of years ago Formby police started to look at the extent of the problem, realising that it was larger than they had previously understood they set about discussing solutions with the land managers. This led to the establishment of the quad bike patrol.
It was at this time that the Police Reform Act 2002 came into force, predominately covering anti-social behaviour, which enabled more effective policing than had previously been possible. As an example, it was previously difficult to prosecute someone using an off-road bike in the area and they were often only warned, this didn't necessarily deter them from repeating the anti-social behaviour. Now, if a warning is given under the Police Reform Act and they are seen again, the vehicle can be confiscated. To date they have not seen any off-road bikes return after being warned, showing how successful this approach is.
The types of anti-social behaviour they have to deal with can broadly be split into people by themselves and people with vehicles. When dealing with people and vehicles they have the flexibility of a range of options at their disposal (see box 1), this allows them to deal with any given situation in an appropriate manner. The cruises held on the beach at Southport, gatherings of car enthusiasts, has shown their value in controlling and discouraging the small anti-social element who drive inappropriately or whose vehicles are not safe. (See box 2 for results)
For the anti-social behaviour that relates to people only, the very presence of the patrol calms behaviour where in the past wardens were not always respected when trying to do their job. For the vast majority of users of these areas the presence of the patrol is reassuring and they often wave to Andrew or have a quick chat with him. Obviously they are also there for other aspects of policing, and working with partners help with anything from lost children to first aid.
There has been interest from other police forces in this novel approach to policing with enquires from Blackpool and Newquay; and Liverpool has now got two quad bikes for patrolling areas of South Liverpool. Andrew accepts that "this is a significant change from a conventional police patrol" and goes on to say "it has been well received by our partners…the results speak for themselves". As for the results "an 80% average reduction in incidents dealt with by our partners", part of this reduction represents the patrol now dealing with incidents previously dealt with by partners, but part represents an overall reduction in incidents.
So if you are out and about on the coast and you see the police quad bike patrol give them a wave, and if you need assistance they are happy to help.
Box 1 - some of the options available to the patrol
Box 2 - Results from beach cruises this year 12th April and 3rd May
For further information on the Merseyside Police Authority visit www.merseyside.police.uk