Trail cyclists on the fields of Westbrook terrorize the neighborhood. Video / Provided
Bikers chanting gang slogans have left a terrified 12-year-old girl in tears after one of them deliberately almost mowed her down while she was training.
It comes after a series of similar incidents in which
Trail cyclists racing on sports fields in Rotorua threatened children and adults and, in one case, threatened to burn down a resident’s house.
Now the locals are fighting back and want something done before anyone gets hurt or killed.
The 12-year-old was on a practice run at Ray Boord Park on Monday when three men on bikes shouting gang slogans harassed and followed her as she ran.
The girl’s mother was supervising the training session and witnessed the harassment. The Rotorua Daily Post chose not to identify them for security reasons.
The mother told the Daily Post that when the girl was about 50 yards away, one of the runners, wearing a black balaclava, came back and took aim at her at high speed.
He pulled away at the last minute, approaching her from 2 meters away. As he walked away, he spun around and hit the ground.
“He got up while spinning his bike on the ground and aimed directly at him. She tried to run around him, but he lined her up again,” she said.
A passing man on a bicycle shouted and that was enough to scare the cyclist and he ran away.
The woman said her daughter was running with tears streaming down her face.
“As a parent, I am so angry that there are people in our community who ruin everything for our children.”
They lived nearby and were familiar with the behaviors of trail cyclists.
“The noise is intimidating but never to the point where I feel like something is going to happen.”
The youngster told the Rotorua Daily Post that she runs in the fields once or twice a week as part of her cross-country training plan, but doesn’t want to set foot there anymore.
“I don’t want to. It makes me sick.”
A Rotorua man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said two riders targeted him and his daughters while tearing up the fields.
“One was spinning shit off his bike and I was scared he would get into [his daughter]. I told the girls to carry on and then he came straight at me so I ran towards him.”
The man said they had exchanged words but he didn’t want a physical confrontation in front of his daughters, so he tried to calm the situation. Both girls were crying.
“I thought that was complete bullshit and told them to fuck off and they have no right to tear up fields and scare people.”
A resident filmed the tumult. This resident, who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals, came out to lend a hand and told the bikers that he was calling the police.
The runners threatened to burn down his house, he said.
The resident said he and his family had lived nearby for seven years and while bad behavior from some motorcyclists had always been a problem, it had worsened recently. He didn’t allow his children to play in the fields anymore.
The responses from police and Rotorua Lakes Council have been frustrating, the man said.
He said he called the board at least seven times and emailed. He had also called police at least five times in the past three weeks alone and emailed his security footage.
The council asked him if the runners had damaged the fields and he was asked to send evidence and was told it was a police problem if they were in the parking lot, he said.
The resident said he did not see the police arrive or notice any patrols in the area.
He had purchased a $3,000 upgraded security system after the girl was terrorized.
He said he came “within seconds” after hitting a trail cyclist on Petrie Street one night after the cyclist, who had no helmet and a blue bandana tied around his head, “was Out of nowhere”.
Rotorua Police Zone Commander Inspector Phil Taikato said police were aware of reports of dangerous and anti-social behavior and would target riders who put the public at risk.
The police were trying to find those responsible and patrols were underway in the area.
“We work hard to hold accountable those who engage in illegal behavior. We recognize that this type of offense causes concern and harm in our community and will not be tolerated.”
Taikato said that through CCTV and other means they had in the past been able to identify some of the riders and in some cases their bikes had been seized.
“We need as much detail from the community as possible about bikes, riders and locations, as quickly as possible, to give us the best chance of bringing offenders to justice.”
The council’s director of community safety and wellbeing, Julianne Wilkinson, said the council had also received complaints about runners damaging sports fields and using the reserve as a thoroughfare.
Council was recently told it also involved threatening behavior towards those using the reserve for recreational purposes.
She encouraged witnesses to report as many details as possible.
She said community safety was a key priority for the council and worked with police to share information.
Given the number of access points to reserves, as well as the speed and nature of offenders, cameras are unlikely to be an effective deterrent or tool for identifying offenders, he said. she declared.
The council had undertaken work in Thebes Street to restrict vehicle access to Westbrook Reserve and improve fencing, but were aware that any move to keep motorbikes out could also limit access for legitimate users .
She said damage to grass reserves could be repaired during normal grounds maintenance, so there were no significant additional costs.
Anyone with further information should contact 111 if it happens now and 105 afterwards. Information can all be submitted to Crime Stoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online via www.crimestoppers-nz.org. Reports to the council can be made 24 hours a day on (07) 348 4199.