ATV seizures mark start of police crackdown

AVT rider "Mook" of the Philly Hang Gang rides on Lehigh Avenue. DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
AVT rider "Mook" of the Philly Hang Gang rides on Lehigh Avenue. DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Posted: August 07, 2012

ONE DAY AFTER police confiscated 37 ATVs and dirt bikes in Kensington, North Philly, Fairhill, Hunting Park and Cobbs Creek, police bigwigs said illegal riders should expect a continued crackdown as authorities target the hundreds of riders who turn city streets and parks into a racetrack every summer.

"The Police Department is going to take a more proactive approach in confiscating these vehicles," Deputy Commissioner Thomas Wright said. "We won't get into the details of our strategy, but we will be doing more frequent operations in the future, where the element of surprise is key."

Wright said a task force of about 10 officers launched the crackdown about 11 a.m. Sunday, seizing 26 four-wheelers and 11 dirt bikes from garages and streets, more than police originally reported. It was the biggest blow to the riders since cops snagged about 20 ATVs and dirt bikes in a similar crackdown in November in and around Tacony Creek Park, Wright said.

Still, their success could be short-lived.

If the ATV and dirt-bike owners can show proof of ownership, registration and tags, they'll get their rides back — as long as they pay storage fees and ticket fines. Even those who can't show proof still could recover them under a city practice in which confiscated ATVs and dirt bikes are given to the Philadelphia Parking Authority to sell at auction, often to the same folks who ride them illegally in city streets and parks. Police officials have said the city should discontinue the sales and destroy the vehicles or sell them for scrap.

At a news conference Monday, Wright said the Police Department's legal experts are drafting legislation that would give cops more leeway to hold confiscated vehicles and allow them to be destroyed if illegal riders are caught more than once.

But Marty O'Rourke, a PPA spokesman, said Monday that police continue to send ATVs and dirt bikes to auction; at least 21 ATVs and dirt bikes are scheduled for auction this month.

Some of those who lost bikes or ATVs in the crackdown were members of the Philly Hang Gang, a group of friends who meet most weekends to ride.

Mike Miles, a Hang Gang founding member famous among riders for his dirt-bike skills, complained that police should have other priorities.

"They making this a real big issue, but it's really not that serious," he said. "We're not out robbing people, shooting. We out here riding bikes. It's a bike, c'mon."

Wright countered: "There are some very talented riders, I will give them that. But they are dangerous, not only to themselves but to other motorists around them." n

Contact Dana DiFilippo at 215-854-5934 or difilid@phillynews.com . Follow her on Twitter @DanaDiFilippo and read her blog, phillyconfidential.com .

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|