Police riders tackle off-road bike crime in South Yorkshire

A dedicated off-road team is helping police crack down on rural and wildlife crime in South Yorkshire, using high-performance vehicles, quad bikes and dirt bikes to catch poachers and thieves who are terrorising farmers and damaging crops.

Rural crime is a problem throughout South Yorkshire. Quad bike and machinery theft is a particular issue along the west of the county and up into the Peak District, while crop damage and poaching is more prevalent through the flatter farmland around Doncaster and Rotherham.

A team of six full-time specialist officers from South Yorkshire Police is tasked with disrupting anti-social behaviour caused by illegal off-road bike riding, as well as helping the force with rural and wildlife crime patrols.

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The team is supported by 12 cascade riders and has access to a fleet of powerful vehicles, including a Land Rover Defender 90, a BMW X3, dirt bikes and a Yamaha quad bike.

Officers have been trained to use drones and have the support of a fixed-wing police plane, which is based at Doncaster airport.


This technology has helped identify dozens of offenders in fields causing damage to crops, and provided photo evidence to secure convictions.

The team has seized 13 quad bikes so far this year, the majority suspected stolen. Trespassers have also been summoned to court thanks to rural patrols by the off-road team.

Aerial view of damage to crop fields

© South Yorkshire Police

In one incident earlier this year, six quad bikes were pursued at night across farmland near Barnsley. Four of the farm quads were stolen and three have since been returned to their rightful owners, and the thieves prosecuted.

Farmer advice

South Yorkshire Police is urging farmers to report all crime to assist the off-road team and build on their encouraging results.

Insp Clifton, from South Yorkshire Police, said: “Feedback has been good and the rural community are building confidence in the team, and in turn we are seeing an increase in reports coming in, of both incidents taking place and intelligence as to who is responsible.”

On poaching, Insp Smith warned the crime was becoming more noticeable and rural communities needed to pull together and collectively report incidents, so more resources can be allocated.

“It’s very easy to put up with damage taking place to the farmland from poachers, but this hides the problem and allows it to continue unchecked,” he said.

Farmers in the county have been digging trenches and moats to protect their land, but the police have recorded incidents where criminals bring plinths of wood to breach the ditches.

Rural crime advice for farmers

  • Repair or block holes in hedges to make it harder for quad bikes and off-road bikes to access fields
  • Report all crime and include any cost of damage (hedges, fences, crops etc)
  • Attend village meetings and make sure rural crime is on the agenda. As a result, South Yorkshire Police says councils have installed more CCTV in remote areas across the county and this is assisting officers combat crime
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