AN OPERATION aimed at combatting more than 2,000 boy racers who travel from as far away as Manchester and Wales to hare around Thurrock’s roads is working, according to the Chief Constable of Essex.

More than 500 vehicles have been stopped on roads around Lakeside shopping centre, leading to four arrests, nine vehicle seizures, four drivers reported for “racing on the highway” and nearly 50 drivers reported for speeding.

The operation, called Wagtail, was launched on July 7 following complaints from local residents, backed by damning video evidence published on the Thurrock Gazette’s website.

As well as showing wreckless driving and racing by young motorists, the videos also showed crowds of spectators gathering perilously by the road as cars sped by.

On August 25, a Dispersal Order was introduced until February 24, covering a large area around Lakeside, meaning boy racers caught meeting in the area can be told to leave and not return, or be arrested.

In his report, police chief Jim Barker-McCardle, pictured, said: “There has been a significant increase in the number of young drivers converging on locations across the county, most notably Lakeside and Basildon. These gatherings are promoted and publicised through Facebook and Twitter.

“In response to reports from local residents, backed up by filmed evidence, of dangerous driving and extreme noise, officers from the Casualty Reduction Unit supported by the Neighbourhood Policing Team from LPA West launched Operation Wagtail.

“This was a structured plan of engagement and enforcement action to minimise the risk to life and property from the actions of the young drivers.

“As a result of increased policing activity, social networking sites are now indicating highway racing will move away from Lakeside to a location outside the county, although there are suggestions that smaller events are being established in Clacton, Harlow and Colchester.”

Chafford Hundred councillor Charlie Key praised the work of the police in tackling the problem.

He said: “The police seized the initiative and grabbed the bull by the horns. I’m getting fewer and fewer complaints from residents about the misery this racing was causing.

“It’s been a big issue effecting many people in Thurrock. The police have done really well, which is fantastic.

“It sends out a message that people can’t come here and flout the law.”