Heavy police presence in Bethlehem

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A motorcyclist riding through heavy police presence at Te Paeroa Rd Roundabout in Bethlehem. Photo/Andrew Warner
A motorcyclist riding through heavy police presence at Te Paeroa Rd Roundabout in Bethlehem. Photo/Andrew Warner

A gathering of over 100 motorcycle gang members, believed to be attending a memorial service at Te Wairoa Marae, triggered a large police operation in Bethlehem today.

The road policing operation caused major traffic congestion and delays along State Highway 2.

At one point during the operation police closed off the roundabout near the Bethlehem Birthing Centre, Te Paeroa Rd, causing traffic to back up all the way to Omokoroa one way and 11th Ave the other.

A large group of motorcyclists stopped by police in Bethlehem. Photo/Andrew Warner
A large group of motorcyclists stopped by police in Bethlehem. Photo/Andrew Warner

There was heavy police presence and cordons at the Te Paeroa Rd roundabout, and the road itself was blocked off and being used by police to process motorcyclists. There was also a smaller police presence near Wairoa Bridge.

Bay of Plenty police Senior Sergeant Denis Murphy said historically gang rides have caused public concern with members riding en masse.

He said there were just over 100 motorcyclists, that came from local chapters as well as from Auckland.

"Rides like this intimidate other motorists and are a deliberate and provocative breach of traffic laws. They are also inclined to endanger members of the public, ignoring road safety rules, with complaints of dangerous driving, driving with the wrong class of licence and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs," he said.

While no arrests were made the operation saw the issuing of at least 18 infringement notices, one disqualified driver, whose vehicle was impounded and another driver whose licence had excess demerits.

Motorcyclists riding through a police operation in Bethlehem. Photo/Andrew Warner
Motorcyclists riding through a police operation in Bethlehem. Photo/Andrew Warner

Mr Murphy said all the motorcyclists were breath tested and all passed.

However, he said police had received photographs from concerned members of the public which identified dangerous driving by the motorcyclists and police would be following that up.

He said police found the members compliant to their requests.

"We will be monitoring their movements with a particular focus on road safety and on ensuring our communities are not harmed or intimidated.

"The stench of Methamphetamine and crime wafts along behind gang members, and Police encourage anyone who sees or hears anything about drug use or dealing to let us know."

Te Wairoa Marae did not wish to comment on the day's events.

Earlier: Reports on social media say a road has been closed and scores of police officers and cars are stationed at a roundabout near the Bethlehem shopping centre.

The bikies were being stopped at the police roadblock as they headed towards the nearby Wairoa Marae.

Police said more details of the operation would be released later today.

The riders are understood to be heading to a tangi at the marae.

Earlier: The reporter at the scene has said traffic is severely backed up on SH2 going through Bethlehem.

"Traffic heading north has ground to a half, it's barely moving. Apparently it's blocked all the way back into 11th ave."

Traffic coming into Tauranga was said to be blocked back to Omokoroa.

The reporter said police have blocked lanes, so only one lane for each direction was open.

Earlier: A reporter at the scene said about 40 motorcyclists have been pulled over by police from SH2 into the cordoned off area on Te Paeroa Rd.

Traffic had become very congested as police had closed off the roundabout near the Bethlehem Birthing Centre.

He said it appeared the motorcyclists were patched gang members.

Earlier: Police have released a statement saying the police operation is underway this morning in the Bethlehem area is focused on "road policing".

No specifics were available, but further information would be forthcoming in the next couple of hours.

Earlier: Reports are coming in of a heavy police presence in the Tauranga suburb of Bethlehem.

A reporter at the scene said police had cordoned off a section of Te Paeroa Rd, blocking it off at the roundabout that intersects with State Highway 2.

He counted at least nine police officers on one end of the cordon and six police cars and at least 18 police officers at the other end.

He said traffic is flowing normally on the highway but a 250m section of Te Paeroa Rd had been blocked by police, and no one could turn into Te Paeroa Rd.

He said he could see one of the police booze buses parked up nearby.

An eye witness at the scene said he saw two motorcycles coming from the north on SH2 pulled over by police and sent through the cordon onto Te Paeroa Rd.

A police district command centre spokeman said there was a police operation in process, but could give no further information.

Bethlehem Birthing Centre, at 1 Te Paeroa Rd, was operating business as usual.

More soon.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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