POLICE in Manchester have launched a crackdown on rogue stretch limousines.
The hiring of stretch limos is popular among young revellers on a night out, thanks to features like TVs, sound systems and mini bars.
But officers are concerned a loophole in the law is allowing drivers to operate unregistered and potentially dangerous vehicles, most of which have been imported from America.
They have launched "Operation Dakota", where stretch limos are being stopped and checked by police and vehicle inspectors in the run-up to Christmas.
Their findings could lead to calls for a new law to register stretch limo drivers. The industry is currently not regulated in the same way as the taxi trade, where drivers are registered with their local authority.
Anyone with a driving licence can get behind the wheel of a stretch limo and legally start a business. But police are concerned that some imported vehicles have not passed rigorous safety checks.
Police and officers from the Vehicles and Operator Services (VOSA) and the DVLA will stop limos to check documentation. They will also look at whether seatbelts are fitted and are being worn.
Supt Alan Green of GMP said: "We launched this operation to ensure limo drivers in Manchester are operating safely and legally.
"Throughout the festive period there are more people in limos and this creates safety concerns.
"GMP have no desire to `spoil the party' but there are safety issues we need to address.
"The concern is that there is a lack of real regulation around stretch limousines and because of that lack of regulation there could be rogue operators out there.
"What we are trying to do is to establish the level of compliance we have got so we get a better picture.
"We will be looking at the results and looking at the condition of these vehicles. There is a fair amount of concern that there's no proper regulation around stretch limousines."
Graham Tomlinson, of the National Limousine Association, said: "We represent professional operators and we wholeheartedly support the police, VOSA and DVLA in this initiative. We trust it will be repeated."