Police in Wakefield to use drones to help catch illegal off-road bikers

The district's Matrix off-road bike team deployed drones in a test operation in Wakefield last week.

Thursday, 28th February 2019, 3:15 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th February 2019, 3:18 pm
Wakefield District Police have tested the use of drones to support their Matrix off-road team.

In an increased effort to detect illegal off-road bikers, the team tested the drones out to act 'as a police eye in the sky'.

They were piloted by officers from the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Operations team over Horbury Lagoon in what was the first such use of technology to support off road bike policing in the county.

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The Matrix off-road team in Wakefield was established in 2015 and is now busier than ever.

The drones provided bird’s eye support for patrolling officers from the District’s Matrix off road team.

A spokesman for the force said: "Tests showed that the drone was able to give a crystal clear picture of the whole lagoon area, providing the drone operator with real time intelligence which could be used to direct police off road riders on the ground."

Similar tests in other 'hotspot' areas for anti-social riding in Wakefield are planned in the coming weeks.

The Matrix team itself is busier than ever and now operates seven days a week after expanding in late 2018.

In the last week alone the team seized an off road bike seen being used illegally in Upton, arrested a man in Airedale for dangerous riding on a stolen motorbike and secured a £200 fine in court for a male seen riding illegally.

During 2018 the team seized 96 off road bikes and either charged or reported 43 people for summons.

It works closely with PCSOs in neighbourhood policing teams to target patrols based on local intelligence, and has been receiving increasing amounts of information from residents through social media and email.

PC Finley of the Operation Matrix Team, said: “The use of drones will really assist us on operations and we want to thank our colleagues from UAV operations for their help in making this project a reality.

“In tests on Horbury Lagoon, a drone covering the southern area was able to give the operator a perfect view of the whole lagoon itself due to its height and camera kit, illustrating their effectiveness.

“If any illegal riders had been present and operating out of view of our Matrix team, the drone pilot would have spotted them and been able to guide us straight to where the problem was.”

Chief Inspector Alan Rhees-Cooper of Wakefield District Police, said: “The Matrix Team has made a real success story for Wakefield District since its introduction in 2015 and we are delighted to have had the opportunity to use one of the Force’s UAVs to support our off road officers

“The UAVs provide us with a significant new ability to track suspects further, and more quickly direct our riders to trouble spots, really boosting our riders ‘real time’ intelligence of where suspects are heading as they approach areas where anti-social riders are operating.”

He added: “We remain focused on combating illegal off road riding, and continue to ask people to get in touch and give intelligence about anti-social riders operating in their communities to their local neighbourhood policing teams. We are acting to catch these people and are getting them off the road and putting them before the courts.”

You can follow the Operation Matrix Team on Twitter