DC leaders searching for solutions to stop illegal dirt bikes, ATVs on city streets

- A lot of people, including some leaders in the District, are talking about a story we brought to you on FOX 5 of video showing a group of illegal dirt bike and ATV riders traveling down the middle of Florida Avenue in the Shaw neighborhood of D.C.

Many residents have had it and are asking leaders to do something about it.

The video of nearly 50 dirt bikes and ATVs cruising down the street Sunday evening was shown to several D.C. council members by FOX 5 on Tuesday and some of the council members said they are trying to address it.

Currently in the District, if you are arrested for riding an illegal bike, you are looking at a misdemeanor charge with a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The D.C. Police Union said of the most recent 100 cases, two-thirds were either never charged following arrest or simply dismissed. Of the remaining offenders who did face a judge, they got off with absolutely no jail time.

The police union said officers’ hands are tied.

“They are tied in the respect that we can't chase the vehicles and I think officers out here will tell you that it just creates a more dangerous situation chasing them around,” said Gregg Pemberton, treasurer of the D.C. Police Union. “But the officers are very cunning and we outsmart these guys all the time. We catch them at gas pumps, we catch them at stop lights, we catch them in traffic, we catch them stashing vehicle in alleys and we make arrests all the time. We seize the vehicles and we put people in jail. But at the end of the day, they are not charged with anything.”

"The safety of motorists and pedestrians is first and foremost as well as our law enforcement officers,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser. “So it's not an issue specific to the District. We have some issues around the region and we are exploring new ways to deal with it.”

Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) said he wants to move forward and propose stricter laws that would help curb these illegal vehicles.

However, Mayor Bowser said she does not think legislation is necessary, but is hoping to announce something soon to address the problem.

Councilmember Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4) said he is more than concerned about this problem and wants Police Chief Cathy Lanier to take action.

“I think MPD has to enforce it. I know it's tough because the chief has said she doesn't like to chase them with police cars because it can be a public safety issue, but I think our enforcement of our current law is going to have to occur,” explained Todd.

LaRuby May said she is worried about her constituents in Ward 8 and that she has been searching for a way to fix the problem, including approaching D.C. parks to find a location for riders to legally operate.

“The fact is they are illegal, but even if we get a location for them to go, how are they going to get them there?” said May (D-Ward 8). “We thought about if we can provide a site, that the site has storage on it so they don't have to bring their bikes there.”

May also explained that one of the problems with creating a site is liability and she is hoping a private company might step in to help run a site.

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