City police continue ATV crackdown

Posted: August 13, 2012

Sixty-six down, a kajillion to go.

One week after confiscating 37 dirt bikes and ATVs in a crackdown on the vehicles, police seized another 29 in live-stops throughout the city this weekend.

"It's on!" police spokesman Lt. Raymond Evers said of the city's battle against riders who zoom through streets and parks.

Police, working undercover and in uniform, took 16 dirt bikes and 13 four-wheelers from Cobbs Creek Park, the Belmont Plateau and areas frequented by riders in the 24th, 25th and 26th districts, police said. The department used its own marked dirt bikes to nab some elusive riders, said Inspector Dennis Wilson of the Southwest police division.

"The whole city is calling for this; they're frustrated," Wilson said, adding that Cobbs Creek Park is the biggest lure in his division for ATVers and dirt-bikers. "The bikes and ATVs are riding through picnics and ripping the park up and pretty much ruining the peace of the park."

Riders, though, say they feel persecuted, saying police seized some bikes and ATVs while they were parked or stored. While it's illegal to ride dirt bikes or ATVs anywhere in the city except on private property with permission, ownership and possession isn't illegal. Riders can get their ATVs or dirt bikes back if they show proof of ownership and registration - and pay hefty traffic fines and storage fees.

"This is extortion," said rider Lino Slowrock, 29, of Southwest Philadelphia, who said police confiscated two of his dirt bikes from a garage Aug. 4.

Slowrock and other riders are getting T-shirts printed that proclaim: "Bikes Up, Guns Down! Stop the Violence! Motocross is not a Crime!"

"This is outrageous; they don't want us to ride nowhere," Slowrock said. "Give us a place to ride!"

While ATV and dirt bikes have largely been an urban phenomenon, some suburbanites are getting a taste of "bike life." Riders have been hitting the highway and holding wheelie contests up Interstate 95 into Bucks County.

During the most recent organized ride on July 22, one dirt biker wheelied up I-95 for more than 20 miles, from Girard Avenue to the Langhorne exit, surrounded by about 20 friends on ATVs and dirt bikes. That ride ended only after Pennsylvania State Police initiated a chase in which one dirt-biker crashed into a police cruiser and others scattered off exit ramps and across berms into suburban yards to escape, police and witnesses said.

Contact Dana DiFilippo at 215-854-5934 or difilid@phillynews.com.

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