Police have noticed a rise in erratic and dangerous joy riding in cars across Newcastle and the Hunter in recent months, prompting uniformed and plain-clothes officers to collect intelligence and prepare operations to target so-called "hoon" driving.
Newcastle-Hunter Highway Patrol Inspector Mick Buko told the Newcastle Herald there had been a spike in cases of wild driving, including speeding and burnouts, "pretty much spread out everywhere" across the region. Inspector Buko said it was not only inexperienced teenage drivers taking the risks, but people aged in their late 20s and early 30s, who he labelled "men and women who should know better about how they drive on the road".
A police operation last month stopped one group from driving dangerously in the Newcastle Foreshore area - which is also a popular spot for walkers - but police have been chasing the erratic drivers from place to place.
Inspector Buko said the Highway Patrol was collecting intelligence and planning more operations, involving uniformed and plain-clothes police.
"Going down to Newcastle Foreshore and dropping a big burnout on Friday night, it's just dangerous and we can't have it," he said.
"These hoons won't even know we're watching them.
"We'll be coming and taking their cars if they're doing the wrong thing."
The Herald reported on Monday that the Newcastle area had been the site of a steep rise in drivers being caught by mobile speed cameras, particularly since warning signs were abandoned late last year.
According to government data released this week, the number of fines issued across 15 Newcastle postcodes jumped from 111 in the first quarter of 2020 to 1356 in the same period this year - an increase of more than 1100 per cent.
The data shows that the number of fines in the 2299 post code - which includes Lambton, Jesmond and North Lambton - increased by 2340 per cent, from five in the first quarter of 2020 to 122 between from January to March this year. There was also a significant increase in postcode 2289 (Adamstown, Kotara, Adamstown Heights, Kotara South, Garden Suburb and Highfields), where the number of fines jumped from 15 to 203.
Inspector Buko said yesterday there had not been the same rise in fines handed out by Highway Patrol officers.
But he said police were beginning to have input into where the mobile speed cameras should be placed, based on their local knowledge.
"We've asked to have them moved down to places like Putty Road, some of the back roads up to Wollombi," he said. "There are so many motorbike enthusiasts riding up and down [Putty Road] every weekend. It's fantastic and we're very supportive of people riding with their mates, but doing it safely."
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