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Philadelphia Police promise to up enforcement on illegal dirt bikes, ATVs: "We're setting a tone, and we will win it"

Philadelphia police share plan to crack down on ATVs, dirt bikes
Philadelphia police share plan to crack down on ATVs, dirt bikes 02:09

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – If you live in Philadelphia or have visited for any extended time, you've likely seen dirt bikes or ATVs tearing through the street. Philadelphia Police said it's a huge complaint from residents.

"It is one of the biggest drivers of complaints we get about quality-of-life issues," Deputy Commissioner of Special Operations James Kelly said.

Police officials on Wednesday committed to upping their enforcement of these illegal vehicles. They started Tuesday with an operation targeting the good weather.

"We did a quick detail yesterday, and we were able to grab 15 vehicles off the street in a very short period of time, about two hours," Kelly said. "If it wasn't for the weather last night, we probably would've got 50 or more. But it started raining, which sent a lot of people in any way."

Police said as better weather moves in, they know more of these illegal bikes and vehicles will be out on the road. The plan, according to the department, is to enhance the size of these details and have them out more often. Kelly said they can also get help from the new surge details on the weekends announced last week.

"You're going to see a lot more of this moving forward," Kelly said. "A lot more."

Police say the move is a directive from new Mayor Cherelle Parker, who made confronting "quality-of-life" crimes a priority throughout her campaign. Parker acknowledged the need to clean up these crimes Wednesday at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

"If you were to talk to residents throughout the city of Philadelphia and what's important to them, they talk about public safety. But it's a holistic approach. It's not just violent crime, we're talking about the quality-of-life issues," Parker said.

While these illegal vehicles may be deemed a "quality-of-life" crime, police note the incidents are very dangerous to riders and bystanders. Kelly specifically pointed to the viral October incident outside City Hall, where a biker jumped on the back of a woman's car and pointed a gun in her face.

"That played nationwide. That looked terrible," Kelly said. "I mean, we did a great job bringing that in quickly, but that's the kind of behavior we're not going to tolerate anymore."

Police note there are still challenges in bringing these vehicles in. It's department policy not to get involved in a chase out of safety for officers and the rider. But Kelly says they can often nab them when they stop for gas or return to where they came from.

When asked if he believes police are gaining ground on the illegal vehicles, Kelly responded, "I think we are. I think we're setting a tone and we will win it."

Kelly said people caught with these illegal vehicles and driving erratically are issued a code violation and can be fined up to $2,000. According to police, 80% of the bikes confiscated are crushed, with most of the rest awaiting appeals.

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