Cracking down on boy racers

THE menace of boy racers plague Suffolk towns as drivers use one way systems as deadly racetracks. Crime Correspondent Danielle Nuttall joined officers on Operation Klatch in Ipswich to watch the police crackdown in action.

THE menace of boy racers plague Suffolk towns as drivers use one way systems as deadly racetracks. Crime Correspondent Danielle Nuttall joined officers on Operation Klatch in Ipswich to watch the police crackdown in action.

THEY congregate in often heavily-modified cars outside warehouses in Commercial Road.

From there they chase each other at high-speed around the one-way streets past Fitness First, Cardinal Park and the Royal Mail sorting office.

The police assignment, which involved weeks of planning, was launched after officers received hundreds of complaints from members of the public and businesses in the area.

Friday night's operation involved two police motorcyclists pulling the culprits over into a police base, set up in the car park of Fitness First, where they underwent thorough checks by four examiners from the Vehicle Inspectorate.

Although the main problem involving the boy-racers is the erratic manner in which many drive, police hoped the vehicle checks would deter the gatherings and rally driving that take place almost every evening.

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The operation led to the immediate seizure of four cars considered unroadworthy, and six vehicles were banned from the road once they had been taken home or to a garage.

Out of the 22 cars that were pulled over for checks, police found a total of 73 defects – with only two cars being given a clean bill of health.

Officers served a total of five defect notices which result in a fine, 13 advice notices for problems such as tyres wearing low, and two tinting offences where cars had been illegally tinted.

Three of the car owners were also reported for summons – two for bad tyre conditions and one for failing to maintain brakes – and files will now be sent to the Crown Prosecution Service.

It is not the first time police in Suffolk have launched this type of operation to crackdown on boy racers. Other similar assignments have been held in towns across the country.

Operation Eleanor in Felixstowe ran throughout the summer to target boy racers speeding through the seaside town.

More than 25 letters were sent to drivers whose numbers were taken warning them their vehicles could be seized if their behaviour continued.

The message seemed to get across and the drivers who were contacted did not re-visit the seafront area.

In Newmarket, a similar clampdown got underway at the town's Rookery car park following complaints about the night-time menaces and boy racers were warned their cars could be confiscated.

Following the success of other operations in the county, young motorists began racing around the centre of Woodbridge from Market Hill, down to New Street and into the Thoroughfare.

Officers here issued a warning to the drivers that they faced £30 fixed penalty tickets if their music was too loud or they committed any other motoring offences.

In Sudbury, members of the town council decided to buy their own speed guns to carry out their own checks on known boy racer speeding hotspots.

Friday's operation in Ipswich, which was run by Pc Jayne Gardiner, town community beat officer, began at 8pm.

Speaking after a briefing at Ipswich Police Station Pc Gardiner said: "It's an ongoing problem. Subtle measures were tried first with some simple words of advice and the next stage from that has to be fixed penalty notices.

"We have had a considerable number of complaints. The sorting office has expressed concern because their vehicles need to get into the area all hours of the day. They have workers overnight and it makes it dangerous for them some times to go in and out of the compound.

"The other worry is the considerable proximity to various drinking outlets and the pedestrians coming out of there.

"The manner of the driving is primarily the problem. Any vehicles driven in an anti social manner will be given warnings under section 59 of the Police Reform Act. If either the vehicle or the driver received warnings within the last 12 months, the vehicle will be seized there and then.

"The plan is when vehicles are stopped, they are given a thorough inspection to make sure they are roadworthy. They will be dealt with accordingly and any vehicles considered not road worthy will be seized there and then or restricted from being on the road until they pass."

The officers made their way to the Fitness First car park for 8.30pm, where several mini lanes were set up using cones, ready for each vehicle to be brought in and inspected.

The first car, a Ford Fiesta, arrived at 9.15pm and was shortly followed by a Peugeot 102 with tinted windows, both car owners emerging from the vehicles with sheepish expressions.

More followed and the operation, which was expected to last just over an hour because it was thought the drivers would warn each other to stay away from the area, continued until midnight.

Sgt Steve Brooks, who over saw the inspecting stage of the operation, said: "We issued prohibitions immediately so they couldn't go anywhere, or that they had to get it fixed within 24 hours.

"All we want to do is make sure the vehicles are roadworthy. We want to make life difficult for them down here because we get complaints every day. We would like them to moderate their behaviour."

Police have hailed the operation a success and are now planning to make it a regular event.

Pc Gardiner said: "We are very pleased because it has highlighted the problem. It's been an education process for those drivers. On the back of this we have made a decision to make it a regular occurrence."