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Watch out for unmarked cop bikes

unmarked Tasmanian police bikes Triumph Tiger

If you are heading down to do a lap of Tasmania before or after your annual MotoGP pilgrimage, watch out for the unmarked police motorcycles.

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 later send us a photo of a Triumph Tiger and two photos of Yamaha MT models with police extras.

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?

Police using covert TruCAM laser speed camera impossible
Police using TruCAM laser speed camera in an unmarked car with tinted windows

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.”

Unmarked cops

Road safety crash accident motorcycle
Unmarked police bikes

Tasmania is not the only state using covert police motorcycles.

Police in all states and territories except South Australia use a variety of unidentified road and off-road motorcycles, mainly BMWs and even a Suzuki Hayabusa in Queensland!

Queensland Police Service unmarked Suzuki Hayabusa patrol bike - Ducati Panigale V4 busa covert
Queensland cop Busa

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 says 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”.

  1. I say we should have more unmarked police motorcycles. We don’t want to give vehicles the opportunity to stop and put their phone down just because they see a marked vehicle. Because one day the thing that will make them stop and put down their phone is because they’ve hit some poor motorist…

    1. Sometimes I’m not sure about covert police vehicles and their actual effectiveness, but I’m all in favour of much more police activity on the road, especially highly visible policing. Perhaps a little less focus on the easy pickings (cough… speed) and trying to cover all the bad stuff we see every time we go for a ride would go a long way as well.

      I’m on the road all the time and the amount of visible police I don’t see baffles me completely.

  2. After completing a ride from the south west coast of victoria to Queensland earlier this year the high visibility of hwy patrol in both nsw and qld I encountered no speeding or dangerous drivers. So the piont of high visibility seems to work with driver behavior. Did not see any police presence in Victoria

  3. I’ve seen a few of these “unmarked” police motorcycles down here in Tassie lately. Mostly around Hobart and surrounds. I have no issue with it, no different than an unmarked police car. The police rider always seems to be wearing a Hi-Viz vest though, which does make them stand out a little more. 😉

    The last one I saw I followed as we both rode past a line of slow moving traffic. The officer was looking into each vehicle as he passed, hopefully checking for mobile phone use!

  4. If it means more a…holes on telephones get caught I’m all for it. I hope the idea spreads to other jurisdictions. On the other hand when are the wallopers going to do something about the dimwits who drive around dazzling people with their foglights on illegally and the halfwits who park their vehicles contrary to the traffic flow (i.e. on the wrong side of the road) making them hard to see at night because the reflectors are on the BACK of the car, not the front.

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