If you are heading down to do a lap of Tasmania before or after your annual MotoGP pilgrimage, watch out for the unmarked Tassie Tigers!
We don’t mean the extinct thylacine, known affectionately as Tasmanian Tigers.
We are talking about the Triumph Tigers that Tasmanian Police seem to have approved as covert motorcycles.
Unmarked cop bikes
Unmarked police bikes are civilian versions which have discrete emergency lights, sirens and cameras fitted, but no police identification stickers, numbers or paintwork.
While we are not exactly sure what models the Tassie cops are using, when we asked Police Minister Mark Shelton for specifics a spokesperson said they wouldn’t be “releasing further details for operational reasons”.
However, they did include this photo of a Triumph Tiger XRx adventure bike, so it appears they will be able to patrol on dirt roads as well.
Here is the ministerial press release:
This contemporary patrol method allows the unmarked motorcycle to penetrate traffic by lane filtering and is primarily used to detect offences like speeding, mobile phone usage, inattention, traffic light offences and blocking intersections,” a ministerial statement says.
The initial trial in Hobart detected more than 1000 offences in the first three months with the majority being high risk offences and 1-in-4 being a mobile phone offence.
The unmarked motorcycles are fitted with full lights and sirens and three different models of motorcycle will be used.
Motorcycle officers report that there has been a noticeable change in driver behaviour and the introduction of helmet-mounted recording cameras has led to only one person challenging an infringement.
The program has also received strong public support with many motorists supportive of mobile phone enforcement and other offences that contribute to traffic congestion.
Is it sneaky?
Using unmarked motorcycles or cars to patrol for traffic offences is similar to the use of covert speed cameras.
The Minister’s assertion that the public approves of such covert traffic policing may be askew, says the Australian Motorcycle Council.
“The perception of unmarked vehicles has changed as result of other aspects of an increasing surveillance culture by governments,” the AMC says.
“Marked police vehicles in all states are a visible presence which positively influences road behaviour, often to improve rider safety.
“Unmarked police vehicles such as used by detective agencies are understandable, but unmarked vehicles for road law enforcement appear more punitive as they have no perceived positive role in encouraging good roadcraft.
“A great opportunity exists if well-trained police riders were tasked with giving words of advice to riders displaying poor skills. A good rider is a good risk manager.”
Tasmania is not the only state using covert police motorcycles.
Police in most states and territories use a variety of unidentified road and off-road motorcycles, mainly BMWs and even a Suzuki Hayabusa in Queensland!
Queensland Police Sergeant Dave Nelson says he can scan a motorist’s speed up to 1km away on his “plain-clothes” motorcycle.
“So I can see you before you see me and by the time you realise that I’m not just a normal motorcycle, but a police motorcyclist, it’s too late,” he says.
The QPS stays they use unmarked motorcycles as “both an operational resource and to engage with motorcycle riders to discuss and promote road safety”.
Queensland has a fleet of six unmarked motorcycles and “intends to expand its fleet with a view of targeting road users doing the wrong thing and promoting road safety”.