POLICE are hoping to use new powers to punish jet ski yobs who are plaguing the River Nene.
Officers are set to hold talks with the Crown Prosecution Service to see if a dossier of evidence collected in the last few weeks is enough to secure convictions for public order offences.
The hard-line move was sparked after the Environment Agency (EA) urged police to use stronger powers to help them deal with the riders, who are breaking the river’s 7mph speed limit, posing a danger to boaters and fishermen and causing problems with erosion of banks.
The call comes after two men were spotted riding a jet ski on Monday at Orton Mere locks. Jet skis are allowed in the river but police and Environment Agency officers have been warning riders to stick to the speed limit and ensure they have a licence to ride.
The EA teamed up with police several weeks ago to crack down on the problem and collect witness statements and other evidence.
Now, police are testing the evidence against legislation under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which aims to combat anti-social behaviour.
Neighbourhood policing sergeant Rebecca Bretherton, leading the taskforce, said: “Having spoken to witnesses, who range from a picnicking family to boaters trying to enjoy the river, we are looking at whether it has caused alarm, harassment or distress to them, which are all elements of anti-social behaviour under the act.
“We are trying to think laterally to deal with the jet skis and we are hoping our increased powers can help support the EA in this issue.
“Our patrols appear to be working, as we are having fewer calls about anti-social behaviour but we are still having the problem of speeding jet-skis on the river.”
A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said: “We have tried all sorts of measures to stop them displaying what is really anti-social behaviour.
“They are upsetting a lot of other responsible river users and it also has an effect on disturbing the wildlife as well as eroding the earth on our riverbanks.
“We have put locks onto access roads to stop them getting down to the river but they have been cut off. We are trying to work with the police as the jet skiers’ behaviour can be quite dangerous and we don’t have powers of arrest. We are doing all we can to stop them, but we can’t do it on our own.”
THE jet ski problem is not new - police first joined forces with the EA in October 2008, after two jet-skis caused havoc on the Nene.
Anglers and boaters were terrorised by a posse of unlicensed jet skis back in July 2009 and the number of EA officers on the river had to be upped as there were fears the inconsiderate riders could ruin prestigious fishing event, Tacklefest.
A speed limit of 7mph applies throughout the Nene waterway, with the exception of a de-restricted mile immediately downstream of Fitzwilliam Bridge at Stanground.