More than 200 primary schoolchildren descended on Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service’s (MFRS) Training and Development Academy this week as part of a joint initiative aimed at educating young people about the dangers of off-road bikes.
Year 5 pupils from The Grange, St Elizabeth’s, St Phillips, English Martyrs and Lander Road primary schools visited the Storrington Avenue site on Thursday 19th September as part of an action-packed day, organised to help steer young people away from getting involved with the anti-social and illegal use of scrambler bikes.
The event – part of Operation Brookdale – saw pupils witness a re-enactment of a crash involving a scrambler bike, giving them an up-close account of the real dangers the bikes bring.
Merseyside Police’s Operation Brookdale was first introduced in 2012 as a response to a rise in incidents over the summer months and is now run all year round in partnership with MFRS, National Police Air Service helicopter, local authorities, housing associations, schools and youth groups.
Whilst there has been a reduction in recent years in the number of incidents involving scrambler bikes, the issue remains a top priority.
Merseyside Police Chief Constable, Andy Cooke, said: “The issue of off-road bikes causes nuisance, stress and serious risk to the communities of Merseyside and beyond. We’ve seen serious injuries, lives lost and families devastated.
“What does give us encouragement is the progress made in recent years, with incidents reducing, and we’re seeing seizures and arrests on a daily basis.
“But we’re not complacent, we know that incidents still do happen and can have such a negative impact on those residents affected. Key to our progress now and in the future is educational and early engagement with those who might be at risk of being involved.”
Thursday’s event was the result of partnership working between the police, fire service, Sefton Council and Merseyside Road Safety Partnership.
It also saw the attendance of former Liverpool FC player Jamie Carragher, who warned children of the dangers of getting involved in such activity.
Chief Constable Cooke added: “Officers across Sefton work particularly close with partners to make young people aware of the potential dangers and help steer them away from getting involved with anti-social and illegal use of bikes, and this accident re-enactment is one of the many projects they have on the go, with the involvement of enthusiastic young people and their schools.
“Seeing the aftermath of a crash will be a really impactful way to ensure our message sticks and spreads to young people, their families, schools and friends.”
Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan said: “It may seem like a bit of harmless fun to some, but the inconsiderate and reckless use of off-road bikes can have life-changing consequences and that’s why it’s vitally important that we educate young people at an early age before they become involved in this kind of activity. This event gives primary school pupils a first-hand look at what the consequences could be not just for themselves, but for their families, friends and the wider community.
“As well as dealing with the aftermath of collisions involving scrambler bikes, our fire crews are often called out to incidents were bikes have been deliberately set on fire. This unnecessary and unwelcomed call can impact directly on our ability to respond to potentially life-threatening emergency calls elsewhere. Such incidents aren’t victimless. They are classified are arson, a serious criminal offence with real consequences for those found guilty. Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service is steadfast in our commitment to the public and will continue to work with Merseyside Police and other partners as active participants in Operation Brookdale to reduce dangerous and anti-social use of scrambler bikes and the associated risk of arson and road traffic collisions.”
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy also attended Thursday’s event.
She said: “I hear repeatedly from people across Merseyside about the heightened anxiety and fear that the illegal use of scrambler and off-road bikes causes in our communities. Such bikes are a nuisance to decent, hard-working people, they endanger the safety of innocent road users and pedestrians and they are being used to carry out serious crime.
“That is why it is so important we engage with children from a young age to discourage them from getting involved with the anti-social use of scrambler bikes. By demonstrating the aftermath of an accident, I hope we will stop them from being tempted to get involved with the nuisance use of scrambler bikes in any way, keeping them and the community safer.
“My thanks to everyone involved with putting on this hard hitting display.”
Cllr Trish Hardy, Sefton Council's Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing, added: "Our partnership with both Merseyside Police and Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service continues to work extremely well to highlight the dangers associated with scrambler bikes and how they can affect local communities.
"By getting involved in the campaign we hope all the young people have learned some valuable lessons.”
As well as visiting MFRS’ Training & Development Academy, this year’s Operation Brookdale activity also saw 200 primary school pupils spend the day at Crosby Lakeside Adventure Centre.