In recent years, major cities have been plagued by roving packs of young men on dirt bikes and ATVs who ignore traffic laws and terrorize the streets. Residents are asking how to solve this problem – but they are asking the wrong question. Rather, they must ask whether controlling the urban disorder of lawless motorcycles, trash-strewn lots and shoplifting might also be the key to stopping skyrocketing homicide and shooting rates in American cities.
Anyone who lives in a big city these days has seen dozens of dirt bike and ATV riders take to the streets at night. For those who don’t live in urban centers, YouTube is full of headline videos of young men performing tricks and ignoring the rules of the road in New York, philadelphia cream, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities. Even small towns like AllentownPennsylvania and FlintMichigan, see the same phenomenon.
These mobile gangs are a problem for pedestrians and other motorists. In a city, a young woman was walking to her car when a dirt bike rider attempting to perform a trick lost control of her bike and hit the woman in the head. The driver took off; the young woman died. In another town, a 14-year-old illegally riding a dirt bike drove through a stop sign and killed a pedestriana Navy reservist.
It’s not just ordinary citizens who are at risk from these out-of-control mobs. The participants themselves are regularly injured or killed. A dirt bike driver pulled through a stop sign and died when he collided with a car. In a recent incident in Baltimore, a dirt bike rider was hit by a fire truck answer a call. The driver of the dirt bike was dragged under the truck and died at the scene.
In addition to the dangers they present, these disorderly biker crews terrorize the townspeople. Pedestrians cannot walk on sidewalks because cyclists use sidewalks as often as roads. Motorists are in danger every time they cross an intersection. Forget trying to get the kids to bed at night with the sound of hundreds of dirt bikes screeching through the neighborhood.
These dirt bikes and ATVs are illegal on city streets. Even road-legal motorcycles are often unregistered and run without inspection. So it should be relatively easy for the police to arrest drivers, confiscate bikes and restore security to the streets, right?
Not so fast. In places like Philadelphia and St. Paul, progressive city councils and radical prosecutors will not allow the police to enforce what they call “minor” traffic violations. These politicians claim that normal traffic enforcement unfairly affects minority populations, turning a blind eye to violations of the law.
If woke politicians let the police do their job, law enforcement could easily solve the problem. Ten patrol vehicles were able to cordon off an area where illegal drivers were gathered. When the packs arrive on the highway, it is quite easy to block a section. Even movable fences in a narrow urban area would allow the police to lock up these offenders. (Traditional tools like cleat strips, useful for disabling cars, are probably too dangerous to use on motorcycles.) Once the crowd of dirt bikes and ATVs had come to a standstill, it would be simple to grab the offending vehicles and to cite the offending drivers. . A few pick-ups and the sight of groups of 16-25 year old men losing their expensive and disruptive toys would send a powerful message and end the chaos.
What prevents this relatively easy solution? The truth is that biker packs are not the real problem but merely a symptom. The underlying disease is that the criminal justice system has been disabled by progressive prosecutors and their political co-conspirators. If there are no consequences for illegal behavior – whether it’s riding a dirt bike down the street or killing a member of a rival gang – then criminals will continue to engage in such behavior. The increase in the number of illegal dirt bike crews in recent years has been accompanied by the increase in homicides in US cities.
Forty years ago, criminologists James Wilson and George Kelling reminded the world that broken windows or graffiti who are not supported in a neighborhood can lead to an escalation of criminal unrest. More recently, Penn criminologist John MacDonald conducted quantitative studies to show that clean up vacant lots and dilapidated buildings can reduce urban crime. Packs of young men cruising around on dirt bikes are just the latest versions of shattered windows and crumbling terrain. If the United States wants to start reducing violent crime, it can start with the simple things: fixing the broken window, cleaning up the graffiti, stopping begging and open drug use, cleaning up vacant lots, cracking down on burglary. display and confiscate illegal motorcycles. Then get down to the serious business of stopping the homicides. But understand: in the end, these are not separate issues.
Tom Hogan has served as a federal attorney, local attorney, and elected district attorney. He is currently in private practice.