Illegal dirt bikes, ATVs cause chaos on DC streets

- Illegal dirt bike and ATV riders caused problems for police and other vehicles driving in the District over the weekend. Witnesses said 50 to 60 riders rode their bikes around Southeast D.C. on Sunday afternoon.

The group met up at a gas station before heading down the street on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and other neighborhood streets. Residents in the area told FOX 5 that they are fed up with the disturbances caused by illegal riders.

There were 911 calls placed about the illegal vehicles traveling in the neighborhood and two D.C. police cruisers showed up.

Some witnesses said police actually set up rolling roadblocks along the street as the illegal vehicles passed through. Video and photos were captured of Sunday's incident and appeared to show police blocking off traffic, including a Metrobus at an intersection, while another police cruiser drove alongside the dirt bikes and ATVs for nearly 15 minutes while the riders taunted other drivers on the road along with police.

Earlier this year, D.C. Police announced a crackdown on illegal riders. D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said officers seized around 400 bikes and ATVs. She also said that about 100 arrests were made in the last year.

Previously, D.C. police said their efforts are hampered by a "no-chase" policy -- a policy that in the past Lanier has said the city has no plans to change. Lanier has also disagreed with the idea of allowing riders to have a place to ride legally. She said legal areas already exist in the D.C. area and she believes illegal riders want to be on the streets.

FOX 5 attempted to speak with Chief Lanier on Monday about their response to these illegal riders on Sunday, but she declined to talk with us.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser did address Sunday's incident and she said, “We will not pursue ATVs. We will not. It's not safe for the driving public, for pedestrian or for our officers.”

As to how police will approach the illegal ATVs and dirt bikes in the future, Bowser said, "We are going to continue to pursue the ATVs at the source, so where they are being stored, and we have had a lot of success with that so far and we are going to keep pushing hard on that way.”

“I think that the police will assess each situation,” Bowser added. “I understand they had some rolling thing so you didn’t have car traffic interacting with the ATV traffic yesterday. But I think what is important is that we have done some investigations, so we have been able to identify some people participating in this illegal activity and we will keep going at it that way.”

However, Mayor Bowser's response contradicts what D.C. police said in a statement on Monday:

"This past Sunday, riders of ATV's and dirt bikes proved again why they are a danger to our community. With no regard to the safety of other motorists or pedestrians, these riders were caught on camera illegally operating these off-road vehicles in Southeast on Sunday evening. This is a clear violation of the law and we are actively working to identify each of the riders.

"At no time did members of the Metropolitan Police Department provide rolling road closures to accommodate the riders. Our Criminal Intelligence Branch continues to help track down the individuals responsible for the careless and reckless behavior on our busy streets.

"Thus far in 2016, MPD has made 39 arrests for operating an all-terrain vehicle on a public roadway. We have a total of 42 warrants pending.

"We will continue to identify these riders, seek warrants for their arrest, and seize these illegal vehicles when it is safe to do so.

"MPD continues to seek the public's assistance in identifying the operators of ATV's and dirt bikes as well as any locations where the vehicles are being stored. A reward of $250 is being offered for information that leads to a successful confiscation."

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