Anti-social drivers who infiltrate and damage the reputation of genuine car enthusiasts risk losing their vehicles, warn police.
The warning comes following recent incidents across the city anti-social drivers have plagued residents and begun to stain the reputations of other ‘petrol-heads’ who have regularly met up to admire each others’ vehicles.
This weekend there was a flurry of activity at the Marsh Mills retail park where car enthusiasts have long met up at weekend to show off their impressive cars.
However, footage emerged on Saturday evening of a car racing around the roundabout at the entrance of the retail park and residents as far afield as Plympton complained about ‘gunshot’ sounds as cars revved their engines.
Video footage also emerged of a yellow BMW car ‘drifting’ through the car park by the Homebase store and witnesses claimed that by early evening more than 300 cars had arrived at the B&Q car park off Tavistock Road.
One witness told Plymouth Live: “Usually it’s okay but this time they took the p***, loads of police showed up but said they were only there to facilitate it and make sure everyone was behaving.”
Police later revealed that they had been “chasing” drivers around the city and by the evening the car spotted racing around the Marsh Mills retail park roundabout had been seized and the driver reported for anti-social driving.
A tweet from the North and East neighbourhood police team later highlighted the work done by their response colleagues, adding that they would endeavour to “put and end” to the anti-social driving incidents which had plagued residents.
Earlier this month, angry residents in Plymstock said they were being kept awake by noisy drivers who use roads as a race track – and take laughing gas in car parks.
North and East neighbourhood sector inspector, Insp Jackie Kelly, has today told Plymouth Live she has been in contact with organisers of the regular car meets who have agreed to work closely with the authorities to tackle the issue of anti-social drivers.
She said: “We know these meets are a regular event and there has been little trouble with them in the past. The organiser said he was very surprised at the unexpected amount of people who attended this weekend’s events and was as upset at the anti-social driving on show by a very small minority as the residents were.
“To be clear, there are two issues here – the meetings involving car enthusiasts and another, smaller group of people who are involved in anti-social driving across different parts of the city.
“We are working with our colleagues in the south and central neighbourhood teams as it would appear these anti-social drivers are carrying out their activities in a number of locations, including car parks in Jennycliff, Devil’s Point and Mount Batten.”
Insp Kelly said: “There are two different types of people involved – those who meet nicely and they want to enjoy each others’ vehicles and then we’ve got those who are doing the anti-social driving.
“There are those who are effectively infiltrating the meets who we’re trying to deal with.
“The organisers are on board with us and they accept that these anti-social drivers are ruining it for everyone else by the way they are behaving – and those are the people we aim to educate, although we have other routes if they are unwilling to learn.”
The additional warning comes in the shape of Section 59 warnings under the Police Reform Act 2002 which grants police powers to seize vehicles for anti-social driving. If a person is warned and then is again caught driving in an anti-social manner within 12 months of the first warning, the police have power to seize the vehicle.
Insp Kelly said: “We’re at the planning stage but we are working with the car meet organisers who will alerts us as to how many vehicles will be meeting, where and when.
“The organisers are willing to help us identify those who are infiltrating these groups, because normally these car meets are of a good nature.”
One car enthusiast contacted Plymouth Live highlighting how the stereotyped “boy racers” tag was unfair and inaccurate, and that most car fans took pride in their cars and their safe driving.
Luke Eastwood, a lorry driver and former ambulance driver from Kent, said he had a friend who had attended the Plymouth Marsh Mills car meet and immediately recognised how the very small contingent were sullying the wider group.
Luke said: “I’ve organised car events across South East England, where we’ve had liability insurance, marshalls in hi-vis jackets, police recognition, so it feels unfair when we all get branded in the media as ‘boy racers’ for the irresponsible behaviour of a very small number.
“I can imagine the organisers of the Plymouth car meets doesn’t want those kinds of people ruining their events and I’m sure they will do what they can to help police weed them out. The label ‘boy racers’ isn’t even accurate – many women are heavily involved as car enthusiasts these days and the point is not about racing your car, it’s about displaying it.
“My job now and my former job means I’ve seen what happens when cars are driven recklessly and I’ve seen the aftermath. When we did car meets we worked with the police because we don’t want to see anti-social drivers tar the car enthusiast community.”
The stigma attached to car enthusiasts and how some events can go horribly wrong has built up over the years. Many in the city will still recall the near-tragic incident at the B&Q car park in Tavistock Road in July 2014 when a car, driven by a 20-year-old, crashed into a large crowd of people during what was described as a “cruising” event.
The young man was eventually fined £500 by the courts after being found guilty of careless driving but cleared of a more serious dangerous driving charge. He was also ordered to pay £500 towards costs and given three penalty points.
The young man’s defence was that his foot had slipped while attempting to brake, causing the car to lurch forward and swerve into a crowd of spectators who had surrounded the vehicle, injuring 17.
However there are just as many examples of positive experiences by car fans, highlighting the tight-knit community.
In February this year Plymouth Live highlighted how two friends, Luke Bourne and pal George CM, were part of the growing car community in the city, spending their earnings on making their cars look remarkable. Luke, an avid blogger, also shoots footage of his favourite rides with a bit of commentary thrown in for good measure for YouTube.
Earlier this month a group of car enthusiasts rallied round a key-worker friend whose car had been vandalised by yobs who hurled a concrete block through a rear window.
Billy-Jay Hughes was left with a hefty bill after yobs hurled a slab of concrete at the rear window of his BMW Touring car, which he uses for his job as an IT engineer.
The 29-year-old had only left his home in Royal Navy Avenue in Keyham for a few minutes on the evening of Sunday May 31 when his car was attacked.
CCTV footage from a security camera covering his driveway appeared to show two young men in shorts, one barefoot, walk past his home on the opposite side of the road.
Billy-Jay, whose work takes him all over Devon and Cornwall assisting GP surgeries as well as Plymouth City Council, said the damage meant his car would be off-the-road until it was fixed. However, members of the club German Empire rallied round and raised the money to cover the damages to the car.