Police forces join together to tackle illegal car meets
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Sunday night street racing and car cruising has become a common place along the North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire border in the Selby District and East Leeds.
This illegal and extremely dangerous behaviour has led officers from both North Yorkshire Police and West Yorkshire Police to team up and launch Operation Republic. Joining specialist resources to combat this behaviour in both force areas to protect other road users and pedestrians.
Months of work has been carried out to identify areas these meets are likely to take place, and a plan of action has been formulated.
The meets can attract more than 200 vehicles at a time, with many more people attending to watch the racing taking place.
Attendees will park their vehicles on grass verges, roundabouts, pavements and block highways causing obstructions to enable drag strip style racing to take place. Pedestrians or spectators will line the roads either side.
In one night alone several 'meets' were prevented, including one at Skipton Industrial Estate, which would have attracted around 100 cars.
On Sunday, 23 July, Operation Republic was mobilised after a meet took place along Pontefract Lane and Knowsthorpe Gate in the Cross Green area of Leeds. The cars involved had planned on racing between the two roundabouts at the location but were prevented from doing so by officers.
The 'strike team' used their vehicles to block off both the exits and entrances to the roundabouts.
Officers then spoke with, educated and processed the cars, drivers, passengers and pedestrians believed to be involved in the illegal racing.
All those with suspected involvement will receive a 'notice of impending community protection warning' letter. If they continue to take part in the dangerous activity, they will be issued with a formal community protection warning, which could escalate to a Community Protection Notice. Arrest and prosecution could follow if this notice is not adhered to.
This meet took place at around 9.30pm in a busy area of Leeds, which was apparent, when the cars were processed, as several members of the public, including families and those traveling to and from work, were stopped. Officers would like to thank them for their understanding, most of which encouraged the action officers took, as it was protecting road users like themselves.
Information received by police has suggested these meets will take place on other days other than a Sunday throughout the summer and Operation Republic will be ready to deploy to the scene if required.
North Yorkshire Traffic Constable Jon Moss, said: "As a roads policing officer I have seen first-hand the devastation caused by cars which have been driven dangerously. I will do all I can to prevent innocent people being hurt by those who chose to risk their own lives, taking part in this mindless behaviour.
"We will be writing to insurance companies to make them aware of modifications to vehicles and the belief their drivers are engaging in this behaviour, this is likely to result in the cancellation of a policy, which can make it harder to obtain insurance and other products in the future. "Car cruising and street racing is not a game, it is illegal, it is risky, and it is simply pointless.
“Operation Republic is not going away, we will keep attending these meets, we will keep enforcing, we will keep seizing cars and if needed, we will prosecute, until the message is clear, do not come to North or West Yorkshire to commit these offences, and put innocent people at risk."
West Yorkshire Police Sergeant Steph Collett, said: "The organisers of these events and those taking part may not realise they could end up with a criminal record. A criminal record can prevent travel to certain countries, it can limit your job opportunities and have a fundamental impact on your future life, is it worth the risk?
"Those watching, or spectating the races are also accountable for encouraging this behaviour, without them, it is likely, those involved in the racing would not drive in the manner they do.
"Evidence has shown the escalation in street racing in other areas of the UK where organised crime groups and illegal gambling and betting have been involved, we want to stop this happening in Yorkshire and will do all we can to do this."
Jon and Steph explain more about Operation Republic in the video (link above)
The Head of safer Neighbourhoods for Leeds City Council, Claire Smith added: “Following the overwhelming response new powers to tackle vehicle related anti-social behaviour across Leeds are now in force. The city-wide Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) is aimed at prohibiting dangerous driving and vehicle nuisance in public areas in communities across Leeds. A Public Space Protection order is intended to deal with persistent anti-social behaviour in a local area that is having is detrimental to a community’s quality of life
“The PSPO is the first of its kind for Leeds, and whilst this is not a substitute for existing criminal legislation, people will be prohibited from engaging in and promoting activities which are likely to cause a danger to the public, which includes ‘car cruising’ events. Where a motor vehicle is used in a careless, inconsiderate manner or is ridden off road causing or likely to cause alarm, distress, or annoyance to any member of the public, police have powers to stop the rider or driver.”
Over recent years there has been several high-profile incidents where street racing has resulted in people being seriously injured, these include:
* Cambridge: A man received serious injuries during a car meet in Sutton in June this year. * Essex: a spectator was injured during a car cruising event near to the Lakeside shopping centre in May this year. A man was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving and failing to stop at the scene of a collision. * Stevenage: 17 people, the majority spectators, when two racing cars collided during a street racing event. This took place in July 2019.
Leeds currently has a Public Spaces Protection Order in place which gives officers greater powers to combat these events taking place in this area.
( A North Yorkshire Police car and West Yorkshire Police car on joint patrol on the border)
(Traffic Constable Jon Moss and SGT Steph Collett from West Yorkshire Police).