RACING around the streets, riding recklessly on pavements and hurtling through alleyways – every summer gangs of youths cause misery for residents by tearing around on illegal motorbikes and mopeds.

Taking their lives in their own hands, many of those involved are joyriders who do not even bother to wear helmets or protective clothing – and often the bikes they are riding have been borrowed or even stolen.

It is a problem that has blighted people’s lives for years and one that police have struggled to stop because of tight laws that prevent officers chasing them and groups dispersing before they arrive.

Now officers in Southampton are on a mission to change all that – launching their biggest ever crackdown to target serial offenders and seize their vehicles to stop them plaguing communities over the summer.

The exact details of the clampdown, known as Operation Triumphant, cannot be revealed by the Daily Echo.

However it will focus on several Southampton neighbourhoods and will run for five years.

Bitterne has been a notorious hotspot for such crimes, which spike during the summer months as nights get lighter and school holidays begin.

Between January 2012 and November 2013 425 reports relating to vehicle nuisance were made in the area but only six warnings were handed out – something that Operation Triumphant aims to change.

Sergeant Jo Holmes, from Bitterne police station, said: “I am hoping to improve that by pushing our officers to look at these incidents completely differently and take positive action to catch those responsible.

“But that does depend on the help we get from the public and what is key for us is that those victims take down as many identifiable details as possible, because even if we can’t get there before the groups have gone, there is lots we can do.

“We hope that this renewed focus and different approach will make this a success.”

Extra high visibility police patrols and school visits will also get under way in several hotspots, including Bitterne Park, Peartree and Sholing.

Sgt Holmes is also keen to stress that this will not just be a short-term fix, the operation will continue over the next few years to ensure motorcycle nuisance is stamped out.

She added: “We are excited about this and hopefully it will make a difference. We know that this can have a real impact on people’s daily lives.

“This isn’t just an operation running this summer, this will run over the next few years and hopefully, year on year, reduce the number of antisocial behaviour linked to motorcycle nuisance.”

It is not the first time that Hampshire police have targeted illegal motorbike and moped riders.

Two years ago police launched Operation Convergance to crack down on the problem in Millbrook and Lordshill.

Then they threatened to draft in the police helicopter, which is shared with neighbouring forces, to help locate offenders who were using mini motos, scramblers and quad bikes.