Eston Hills action group, formed after a public meeting called by local MP Anna Turley to start a joined up approach to tackling vandalism, has been working to reduce crime and make the hills safer.

Residents raised concerns about illegal off-roading, fires, abandoned vehicles, and environmental damage to the hills and wildlife.

The group working together to tackle these issues includes Cleveland Police & Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger; local councillors; and representatives from Cleveland Fire Brigade, Cleveland Police, Redcar & Cleveland Council, Friends of Eston Hills, and the Ice and Fire archaeology project.

The group have met again with residents to report back on the progress so far, which includes:

–          An increase in police patrols, including by the off road section, has seen more than a dozen bikes seized in the past 2 months

–          Section 59 warning signs have been purchased and are now being installed – they are a first warning allowing offending bikes and motorcycles to then be seized

–          Existing fences and gates have been assessed with vulnerabilities addressed with landowners

–          Arson incidents have dropped after the Easter peak and the fire service are conducting more patrols, checking access gates are secured, and monitoring fly tipping

–          Redcar & Cleveland council have removed 8 burnt out vehicles and are working to remove a further 6.

–          Rock armour has been purchased by the council and a soil bund is being constructed to prevent illegal off road vehicle access through woodland on Flatts Lane. The main gate at the NHS site will also be replaced.

–          Police and Friends of Eston Hills are working with local schools to increase awareness and are hoping to start a Mini PCSO scheme

The group are urging residents to anonymously report any information, especially photographic or video evidence, to the police so the perpetrators can be caught. This can be done through the 101 service, Crimestoppers, Cleveland Connected or the Neighbourhood Police Team.

A ‘land stewards’ project is also being explored for community volunteers to support the police in identifying problems on the hills.

Labour MP for Redcar, Anna Turley said

“The action group have made some really good progress since we brought them together at the public meeting back in April and have a clear plan of action to take forward over the coming months. This is a huge challenge and there is still lots to do but we have pushed the issue up the priority list for local agencies.

“The most important thing people can do to help is to report any information about off road bikes, vehicles and vandalism to the police so that we can make the hills a safe place for all of the community to enjoy again. Please take pictures and report incidents – any report made to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 will remain anonymous.”

Barry Coppinger, Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner said:

“Bringing agencies together to work with local communities to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour is an important part of my Police and Crime Plan.

“There has been some fantastic partnership work around Eston Hills and I’m pleased to see the police, council, fire service and local interest groups coming together to develop a common approach.”

Ian Hayton, Chief Fire Officer of Cleveland Fire Brigade said:

“We work with the Police and Council on a daily basis to try and reduce the amount of anti-social behaviour incidents occurring on Eston Hills and I am pleased the number of fires has dropped from 18 in April to only four fires in June and July combined.

“We want to continue this welcome downturn and once again we ask parents to make sure they know what their children are doing in the school holidays and make sure they are staying out of trouble.

“I am appealing to anyone who has information relating to people responsible for setting fires to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or the Police on 101. Each and every one of these fires puts people’s lives at risk.”

Councillor Alec Brown, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods at Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council said:

“We have been working closely with the community and landowners to remove the burnt out vehicles that have blighted the hillside causing environmental damage. There have been some access issues but we hope to have the remainder moved soon.

“The biggest challenge is stopping the anti-social use of vehicles on the hills in the first place. Gates have been installed at key locations and we are now working to strengthen the NHS site at Flatts Lane which has been a key weakness in the chain. This work should make it much harder for vehicles to get on to the hills and cause damage.”