By Daniel Katzive
It is a frequent refrain heard at community meetings: can’t the police do anything to stop the roving pods of dirt bikes and four-wheeled all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) that range across the city on weekends? The loud groups block highways and often disregard traffic rules while performing dangerous wheelies and stunts. The vehicles themselves are not registered or insured and cannot be ridden legally on public streets in New York State.
In response to community concerns, the NYPD on Tuesday announced a Summer 2022 Motorbikes Plan “as part of its continuing effort to both rid the streets of the illegal bikes, and to raise public awareness about the serious consequences of riding them.” The plan emphasizes intelligence gathering, community outreach, and targeted confiscation rather than direct confrontations.
Police will rarely attempt to arrest or stop the riders mid-excursion. As Captain Neil Zuber of the 20th Precinct explained at a Upper West Side Coalition forum of local precinct commanders last month:
“You’re not going to see us getting into high speed vehicle pursuits down Broadway or on Columbus Avenue or Amsterdam, because that’s just much more dangerous. They are already breaking the law, they are not going to stop for the police. In fact if they see a marked police car, chances are they’re going to start showing off even more and you’re going to take even more risks.”
At the forum Captain Zuber and his counterpart in the 24th Precinct, Deputy Inspector Naoki Yaguchi, emphasized efforts to identify riders and confiscate off-road vehicles in places where they are parked and stored rather than public confrontations.
The NYPD’s Summer Motorbikes Plan contains many elements similar to those described by the precinct commanders in May. Key highlights of the plan include:
- Operations to find and confiscate illegal vehicles kept on New York City Housing Authority property;
- Mapping motorbike ride-outs and identifying storage and meeting spots;
- Deploying Neighborhood Coordination Officers (NCOs), Traffic Safety Officers and Youth Coordination Officers (YCOs) to raise awareness and educate the community; and,
- Analyzing 311 reports in real time to track packs of riders.
When the NYPD is able to confiscate illegal bikes, they are destroyed so that they will not eventually return to the streets. The NYPD’s press release this week indicates that 92 such vehicles were destroyed at the Erie Basin Auto Pound in Brooklyn on Tuesday and that another 588 are at the pound awaiting a similar fate. According to the release, “Between January 1 and June 16 this year, the NYPD seized 1,921 of these vehicles – an 87.9% increase compared with the 1,022 vehicles seized in the same period last year.”
The NYPD indicates the vehicles “are only destroyed after extensive efforts to determine legal ownership fails….”
Illegal dirtbikes and ATVs endanger the lives of New Yorkers. We're not letting them go unchecked.
This year we've already taken nearly 2,000 bikes off the street and we're just getting started.
Get the message: you want to terrorize our neighborhoods?
You'll get crushed. pic.twitter.com/snHjqfWr90
— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) June 21, 2022