Police tackle Bristol's social media motorbike gangs

Just a few of the motorbikes stolen by the gangs in recent months. Credit: Instagram

Avon and Somerset Police have introduced new tactics to tackle rival gangs in Bristol who are thought to be responsible for stealing hundreds of motorbikes across the city.

The gangs are mostly made up of teenagers, some as young as fourteen, who post about what they've stolen on social media. One of their pages simly reads "we steal your pride and joy".

But despite what appears to be damning evidence online the police often struggle to prosecute them.

Motorcyclists in the city say the problem has spiked over the last year. Martin Keay, who runs the Four Counties Biker group, believes it's a game for those involved.

He said, "These two primary gangs that are doing it are in competition. It's a bit of a game to them: steal someone's motorbike, ride until there's no petrol left and then set it on fire."

Melissa Manley decided to move out of Bristol after £500 of damage was caused when thieves tried to steal her motorbike from a private drive - snapping the steering lock off and nearly starting the ignition. She was one of the lucky ones.

"We all work hard for what we buy. None of us are privileged and it's just absolutely galling that it's sport to some people. They just destroy lives and they don't realise their doing it."

Melissa prepares to ride with her new bike which is now kept in the Forest of Dean.

Another motorbike rider became so frustrated with police that he decide to take matters into his own hands. Luke saw his bike on the mobile phone app Instagram and then tracked down members of the gang to Avonmouth, where he ended up in a chase.

"Having followed them for a certain period of time and there being two of them, they did realise I was following them - and I did feel threatened. Some of the manoeuvres that they were doing at that point, and the speeds they were going, were crazy really."

Who are the faces behind the smiles? Credit: Instagram

In recent months, police in Bristol have launched Operation Buell - a crackdown on the gangs which is starting to yield results. However they admit that they are equally frustrated by what they see on social media.

Inspector Rob Cheeseman explained "there's a big difference between what we can prove in a courtroom and what we can identify on those social media sites. And it's something we've had a real drive on in the past six months, to educate the community. That's why we're looking at those other legislations to how else we can tackle this problem."

Those other legislations are Criminal Behaviour Orders, which the team have started using for the first time. They've already issued three in the last month. It means if those individuals are seen on a motorbike again, they face instant prosecution.

There still maybe some time until the bikers of Bristol feel truly safe, but there is a sense that the police are moving in the right direction.

Inspector Rob Cheeseman has dramatically improved the Force's relationship with the city's motorcyclists. He is now urging them to invest in the correct security equipment. Meanwhile his team are focused on tightening their grip on the gangs.