East Leeds area ‘out of control’ due to gangs of motorcyle-riding ‘hooligans’, resident says

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A disgruntled Swarcliffe resident has claimed his neighbourhood has been “surrounded” in recent weeks by balaclava-clad teenage vandals on motorcycles.

The reader, who doesn’t want his name published for fear of reprisals, says streets such as Stanks Lane North, Swarcliffe Avenue and Whinmoor Way have become targets for the gangs, who regularly smash up parked cars and break into gardens in the dead of night.

He added more police patrols were needed to deter young “hooligans”.

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A local Leeds city councillor said police and council officers were aware of the problem, and urged residents to report offences as often as they could, so the case can be made for extra patrols.

Swarcliffe, above, and a photograph of another resident's car smashed by the vandals in July.Swarcliffe, above, and a photograph of another resident's car smashed by the vandals in July.
Swarcliffe, above, and a photograph of another resident's car smashed by the vandals in July.

"It’s a big issue in the area,” the reader said. “The first time [the vandalism] happened, we phoned the police.

"Swarcliffe at the moment is surrounded by boys and young men wearing balaclavas, on these electric bikes, mopeds and motorbikes.

“I have lived in Swarcliffe for 10 years. Since lockdown was lifted it has gone massively downhill.

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"When the police come, it has to be emergency-only, so it takes them a good 20 minutes as they have to travel from Elland Road.”

He added that the nearby school field was being torn up by the gangs during the day, while many of the crimes take place between 11pm and 3am, when cars and properties are targeted.

"They are smashing the windows on the cars, they are slashing tyres and they are breaking into people’s gardens.

"Someone else in the area had their windows put through.”

The resident said he was told by police that it was difficult to chase the gangs down, as they are not wearing helmets, so a pursuit could cause safety issues.

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"When the police come, it’s only because there is a 999 call,” the resident added. "They are getting away with it because they know the police won’t come and patrol the area.

"The area needs something to be done about all these hooligans, because it’s getting out of control.”

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Local councillor Jess Lennox (Lab) said: “It's something we've been working on in partnership with the police and the council's anti-social behaviour teams over the last few months - we know the estate is vulnerable particularly to the motorbikes coming in at the various points off the ring road, and sadly we also know it's a city wide issue.

"In April the police had some success with confiscating a number of bikes, and we've been urging them to use all the powers at their disposal to tackle it. It's a miracle there aren't more serious accidents. The key thing - as laborious as it can be - is for residents to keep up reporting to the police online or via 101 so we can point to the accurate figures and lobby for enough Police resource to really tackle it.

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"There needs to be national legislation and powers to really deal with this issue of illegal motorbike use - it's a safety issue and a blight on communities, and the Police need to be able to put consequences in place for those responsible.”

West Yorkshire Police have been contacted for a comment.