Police put the brakes on Lakeside cruisers

A SUCCESSFUL operation to curb dangerous car “cruisers” racing and performing stunts in Thurrock is being continued by Essex Police and partner agencies.

Roads or large car parks around Lakeside and Grays had become a magnet for drivers of high performance cars racing each other or doing ‘wheelspins’, or other tricks only feet from crowds of spectators.

There was also an increase in reports from local residents about anti-social behaviour such as litter and noise nuisance.

But now, under Operation Wagtail, cruiser events have been considerably reduced thanks to changes to road layouts, speed humps on roads, improved security measures on car parks and increased police patrols.

The measures were introduced after discussions between police, Highways Agency, Thurrock Council, community safety workers, Essex Fire and Rescue Service and businesses whose car parks were used for cruiser gatherings.

One of the most significant improvements was on the A126 between West Thurrock Way and the A13 at Chafford Hundred, where closures on two roundabouts have prevented cruisers using the dual carriageway for racing and stunts.

Sgt Simon Willsher, who coordinates Operation Wagtail, said: “It made a significant difference. Within a few weeks word spread around the cruiser community and they stopped attending.

“Previously, large numbers of cars were parked along the road with spectators standing on the central reservation only feet away from passing high speed cars.

“Unfortunately in Essex, as in other counties, we have seen several incidents where people have suffered life changing injuries or lost their lives as a result of road collisions during such events.”

Further significant and quick improvements were made at Oliver Road, Grays where speed humps were installed to prevent late night drag racing.

Sgt Willsher added: “We have also visited businesses in the area to give advice on security and traffic calming measures in car parks and at Tesco barriers have been fitted to close most of its car park during relevant times.”

Police patrols and static stop checks have increased in the affected areas with local officers and colleagues from the traffic department and the Special Constabulary using marked and unmarked cars.

Sgt Willsher added: “The aim is to advise, educate or prosecute drivers, encourage more responsible driving and take dangerous vehicles off the roads.

“We have dealt with offences ranging from careless and dangerous driving to document offences and racing. I have also sent out 92 warning letters to car owners seen racing or acting in an anti-social manner. These included a warning which could lead to a seizure of their vehicle if repeated within a year.

“To date these seem to have worked as only one was found to breach it and as a result he had his car seized. I have also sent out 88 ‘advice’ letters which are more subtle, with informal warnings.”

Further operations are planned and Essex Police will be trialling equipment which can measure the sound from a vehicle’s exhaust and present it as evidence in court.

The revised A126 road layout is subject to an 18-month trial period, during which the Highways Agency and police will be monitoring its effect on the local community. Please sent any comments about the road or cruiser activity to Sgt Willsher at South Ockendon police station by dialling 101 or email cruisers@essex.pnn.police.uk

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