'Trojan Bus' being used by Northumbria Police to target anti-social behaviour on Tyneside

Tom Barton spent an evening on the 'Trojan Bus' being used to target anti-social behaviour on South Tyneside

It is 6pm on a cold February evening and half a dozen ordinary-looking men and women are getting onto an ordinary-looking bus.

Except, this isn't an ordinary bus. The sign on the front might say it's the E1 for South Shields, but it will go anywhere its passengers ask.

As for the passengers, they are actually plain-clothes police officers on the hunt for anti-social behaviour.

The Northumbria Police officers call it the 'Trojan Bus'. Just like the Trojan Horse of Greek legend, the idea is that it will allow them to arrive - at the scene of anti-social incidents -undetected.

It is hoped that this way they can detain and deal with the culprits before they run off.

The 'Trojan Bus' looks like an otherwise ordinary public bus. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Quickly, the bus proves its worth. After receiving reports of a group of young people at South Shields Interchange, the bus pulls up at the stand alongside several other near-identical vehicles.

As the officers disembark, they are confronted by teenagers throwing fireworks. While some of the teenagers run off, two are collard by officers and dispersal notices are handed out.

"We're not having it," Sergeant Pete Baker says to one 14-year-old, before showing him a map of the area covered by the dispersal order. “See that map there with a red line? You can't be anywhere in there within 24 hours, right?”

Sgt Pete Baker speaks to a teenager after an anti-social behaviour incident. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

For Sgt Baker, the bus is "great". "People don't expect it," he said. "The kids don't expect it."

But, he says, it is not all about "trying to catch everybody doing things wrong".

"I like to speak to the kids and find out what they’re up to and give them some advice," he told ITV Tyne Tees. "I don't want them to go down the wrong path. If you can talk to people you’re halfway there, aren’t you?”

The problem the bus is helping to solve is that youngsters tend to run away from the police.

"If we can get there first and talk to them, it's a great way of doing it," he explained.

All the officers on the bus wear plain clothes. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Later that evening, the driver is asked to take the bus to a McDonald's in the town centre, after Sgt Baker receives reports of teenagers shining laser pens at bus drivers - and at the driver of a marked police van.

As the officers get off, a 14-year-old is caught and his laser pen is confiscated.

He is given a stern talking-to by Sgt Baker.

"If you’d crashed the van, it’d be a completely different ballgame," he told the boy. "If someone was injured. You see the dangers of what you’ve done?"

The teenager is escorted home and officers speak to him in front of police - and warn that they may call him in for an interview at a later date.

Insp Gemma Calvert is the senior officer on the 'Trojan Bus' operation. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

For Inspector Gemma Calvert, the senior officer on the operation, the 'Trojan Bus' has been success.

"We've had a mixture of plain clothes officers on the bus and those in uniform, in marked vehicles," she told ITV Tyne Tees. "And I think the officers on the bus in plain clothes have had a lot more success than those in the marked vehicles.”

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