WASHINGTON - If you were out in Washington D.C. enjoying the warm weather this past Christmas weekend, you may have spotted them and they were not hard to miss -- a large group of dirt bike and all-terrain vehicle riders barreling through the streets.
There were reports of 50 to 100 riders or more riding in the NoMa, Thomas Circle and Georgetown neighborhoods of the city.
It is illegal to operate dirt bikes and ATVs anywhere in D.C. and police are not allowed to pursue these riders.
The corner of North Capitol and M Streets in Northeast seemed normal on Monday. But less than 24 hours ago, Peter DeCarolis was at home a few floors above this street corner when he heard the distinctive sounds of dirt bikes and ATVs. He grabbed his phone and went to the window to record the scene.
“It was about 4 o'clock in the afternoon Sunday right after Christmas and I heard the noise, which is fairly common every other weekend, especially when it's warm,” he said. “So I looked out and there were 40 or 50 ATVs, people on dirt bikes just going back and forth up the street, on the sidewalk, in the middle of the road doing wheelies, just kind of circle around. You hear the cars behind them honking not really knowing what to do. There's a lot of noise, so it gets your attention and I look out and I started to video. After about a minute of them just going back and forth up M Street, they decided to go and then all those bikes and ATVs just kind of barrel through the intersection doing wheelies, revving their engines a bunch.
“On the machine to go up North Capitol [Street], up the little side here and then every 10 or 15 minutes, two or three more times, they will all come around again and kind of do the same thing. And then after a while, it sort of goes away.”
The DC Police Union said that they are making about 10 arrests a month for the illegal bikes. They blame the continuing problem on the prosecutors and courts that don't punish the guilty.
“They need to have some serious consequences if you get caught doing this more than once,” said DC Police Union Chairman Delroy Burton. “Suspend a license, maybe you have to do one weekend day in jail, enforce the fine. But what will stop this behavior is if people know that when they get caught, they will get punished for it.”
The maximum penalty for operating illegal ATVs and dirt bikes is a $250 fine and 30 days in jail.
We asked DeCarolis if he called the police. He said he didn't because he sees police around the dirt bikes, but they don't do anything about it and he never saw the point in calling them.
D.C. police offer a $250 reward for information leading to an arrest of someone riding one of these bikes. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department would not comment on the illegal dirt bikes seen in the city.
A spokesperson for the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia told us in a statement:
“The Office of the Attorney General prosecutes dirt bike and ATV cases presented to us. In fact, from July 28, 2013 through July 28, 2015, we took prosecutorial action in nearly 85 percent of all ATV and dirt bike cases. OAG employs a strategy for prosecuting ATV and dirt bike offenses that includes a team of prosecutors who are dedicated to tracking these cases, fashioning plea offers and sentencing recommendations that take into account the seriousness of a given case and a defendant’s criminal history, and filing sentencing enhancements where appropriate.”