DOZENS of illegal off-road bikes - labelled as the ‘scourge of the town’ by fed-up councillors - were seized during prolonged spells of police crackdowns during periods of lockdown last year, the Chronicle can reveal.

South Yorkshire Police’s specialist off-road biking team seized 82 vehicles during 2020, and has bid for cash for more resources to tackle concerns over yobs riding uninsured, unregistered bikes on roads, paths and public rights of way.

The team was set up in August 2017 in a bid to tackle illegal off-road biking across the county, but work has intensified across the borough thanks to councillors pushing for action in a bid to allay residents’ worries.

Given the continuing scale of complaints issued by residents, police based at the town’s neighbourhood hubs have been tasked with identifying worst-hit areas in their local patches which will pave the way for more action days.

Royston and Shafton in particular have come under the spotlight in recent months, which have both seen yobs make use of their close links with West Yorkshire - where police force boundaries change - via farmers’ fields.

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In the 12 months up to March 2021 - a year after the first national lockdown was enforced - the team were deployed 333 times, and issued 100 traffic offence reports and 406 warnings, and reported 74 people on summons.

The team also issued 82 seizure notices, which has been praised by South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings.

Dr Billings also confirmed that additional funding has been approved to expand the team’s reach, which will include more action days and a specific rural crime team whose members will be housed at Ring Farm, Cudworth, where the force’s mounted department is based.

Mandatory licensing of bikes and quads is also being sought out by police bosses in order to trace owners of vehicles reported.

“Bikes could be licensed, as we licence shotguns and as some drones are now managed,” he added.

“This is a longer term solution but I believe it has merit and I will take it further through the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.

“We have to find a way of stopping this devastation before harassed farmers are forced to give up - we cannot have a small group of people holding farmers to ransom in this way.

“If you see off-road bikes being driven in a dangerous or antisocial manner or using footpaths and private land, please report it via 101 or online via the website.

“We are committed to tackling the problem that off-road bikes can pose to our communities.

“We completely understand just how problematic, and dangerous, off-road bikers have been in Barnsley but residents can be assured that South Yorkshire Police are taking this very seriously given just how many complaints we receive.”