Walsall Council cabinet to discuss the use of drones to deal with off-road vehicles

Walsall Council and West Midlands Police have been working closely together to tackle the major impact of off-road vehicles on the communities and environment of Walsall through intensive partnership efforts.

On 24 November 2022 the Economy and Environment Scrutiny and Overview Committee discussed off-road vehicles being a significant cause of anti-social behaviour in Walsall causing fear, alarm and distress to communities, noise nuisance and a risk of serious injury for pedestrians and the drivers themselves. As a consequence of the issues raised, the Leader of the Council gave a commitment to working in partnership with the Police to ensure this issue was tackled using drone technology and other resources such as education and physical security measures to stop illegal access. 

The first drone operation was conducted on Sunday 29 January 2023 as a test exercise with staff from neighbourhood police teams, West Midlands Police drone operators and Walsall Council’s community safety and healthy spaces staff. 

The main sites tackled were in Pelsall, Goscote Valley, Bloxwich and Willenhall Memorial Park. The team viewed the excellent drone footage from West Midlands Police drone unit and walked Goscote Valley to fully understand the issues and challenges. 

A further exercise was held on 26 February 2023. The fixed wing police plane was used on this occasion and was pivotal for the success of the operation providing the ability to track offenders over long distances or back to home addresses. Council staff fed live sightings from hot spot locations and with the fixed wing aircraft overhead police staff were able to direct their resources — approximately thirty staff in total — to precise locations. This methodology resulted in five arrests, five vehicle seizures, cannabis recovered and numerous other encounters and warnings issued. It also allowed significant amounts of intelligence to be gathered for use in further operations. 

A similar exercise is due to take place during March 2023 and throughout the year should the off-road vehicle nuisance continue.

Councillor Garry Perry, Deputy Leader for Resilient Communities said:

“The value of the drone was clear to see. The images were excellent and a site which would have taken staff a couple of hours to walk around and search was covered in a matter of minutes especially using the infrared capability on areas with tree canopy cover. 

“I’d like to thank members of the Scrutiny and Overview Committee for their assistance in raising the profile of what is clearly a significant anti-social behaviour issue.”

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