Police use drones to find  illegal e-scooters

Police are using drones to track down people using e-scooters illegally in Somerset, Bristol, and South Gloucestershire.

Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police Sarah Crew said: “If people are using those scooters, you might not see us visible, but be assured that we are eyes in the sky.”

She added: “You may not see someone following but you may well be spotted and you will expect us to come and find you.”

E-scooters are a bizarre legal minefield. It is legal to buy an e-scooter, but only to use on private property with the landowners permission. The only e-scooters that can be legally used on the road are ones which are part of council-run schemes, which form a government trial of the vehicles.

People also need a provisional licence to use an e-scooter, and they can only be used in places where a bicycle would be.

Speaking at a police performance and accountability board on August 30, Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Shelford told Chief Constable Crew: “One of the criticisms I get in the post box is that the police never seem to enforce the law, particularly around private e-scooters that are driven illegally on our streets.”

Chief Constable Crew said: “Pursuing some of these vehicles — as we have seen examples in other parts of the country — can be quite hazardous for the public, for the riders, but also for the officers pursuing as well. So we need other ways of knowing who is responsible to be able to deal with them and prosecute them.”

Chief Constable Crew said the police were working with manufacturers and retailers to prevent theft of e-scooters, and were circulating leaflets encouraging people to share intelligence about people using e-scooters illegally.

Meanwhile, police’s drone team, neighbourhood teams, and road policing teams are working together on the issue as Operation Broad. In addition to e-scooters, the operation is also looking at electric mopeds, which Chief Constable Crew warned could hit speeds of up to 55 mph.

Chief Constable Crew said: “What the drone, in particular, has enabled us to do is allowed us to track and identify who the riders are, where they are storing the e-scooters and bikes, and do so without increasing the risk to the public by pursuing them on the ground.”

But she said that it was not just about enforcement, and that police would also seek to educate people on the law around e-scooters where needed.

Chief Constable Crew said: “The most recent update we have had is that the legislation on these won’t be looked at until at least 2025, so we can expect these council-run rental e-scooter schemes to continue for some time.”

by JohnWimperis, Local Democracy Reporting Servic