88°Mostly Cloudy

Regional Approach to “address operations of off-road vehicles on public roadways”?

by Prince Of Petworth April 7, 2016 at 9:45 am 77 Comments


On Tuesday (one day after ATVs were spotted all over town) we heard about an appalling incident where ATVs and dirt bikes cornered an ambulance with a NICU patient on the way to Children’s Hospital. Thankfully the patient was OK but it really highlighted just how bad the ATV situation has become from time to time. Even if it’s not super common and even if it’s a “few bad apples”, the lawlessness can no longer be ignored. Yesterday the Metropolitan Police Department issued a press release about:

“Chief of Police, Cathy L. Lanier and agency officials will host a joint press conference at MPD Headquarters to address operations of off-road vehicles on public roadways.

ATTENDEES: Metropolitan Police Department
Prince George’s County Police Department
Maryland State Police
Maryland National-Capital Park and Planning
Arlington County Police Department
Alexandria County Police Department
Virginia State Police
United States Park Police
District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General
United States Attorney’s Office”

Updates when their plan/approach is released.

  • Slimms St Trinidad

    It’s really not that complicated. You can’t chase them, it’s too dangerous, that’s fine. If you can’t chase them, then you HAVE to devote significant resources in apprehending these people when they’re not causing havoc. Arrest, confiscate and impound vehicles, rinse and repeat. Until now, there has been a very hands off approach and hoping this problem will go away on its own. Whatever arrests are made, the charges usually end up getting dropped. The approach reminds me of another, albeit less serious crime – package thefts. I’m glad this problem is finally getting some attention.

    • Marty

      you can chase them. that shouldn’t be a foregone conclusion. I appreciate that it isn’t easy to do, or as safe as sitting on your ass doing nothing, but it can be done.

      • Anonymous

        Chasing them sounds like a good idea until you consider that it will increase the risk to both bystanders and property. It doesn’t take much to cause an accident in a high speed chase. Imagine ATVs and police cars running read lights and stop signs.

        • Jeff

          You can track them with helicopters or by simply posing officers in a common area they ride in and radio their whereabouts. It’s VERY simple and takes minimal police effort, just a bit of coordination. Remember, you can’t out run helicopters and radios on an ATV.

          • anon

            The problem with helicopters here is how many approvals you have to get before one can get up in the sky.

  • GS

    Most likely outcome – Creation of a task force and token impoundment of a few bikes/ATVs, all while hoping the national media doesn’t get a whiff of this circus

  • jdre

    Spike strips, or threat of spike strips.

    • Hill Denizen

      What about all the other vehicles on the road?

      • Jeff

        post a cop and throw them as the ATV’s come by.

  • Sick of dirtbikes

    Use the helicopter. Follow them to wherever they go. Then send in squad cars to confiscate the illegal vehicles. Then chop up the vehicles. Problem solved.

    This is the right solution.

    • [rrrrr]

      A helicopter could follow one at a time, would take quite awhile to put a dent in the issue.

      • Jeff

        Only one at a time? OMG!!! Lets scrap that idea and go back to doing nothing.

        • [rrrrr]

          Or maybe let’s not use the most expensive resources for the least amount of return…

          • pacerguy00

            How about they deputize drones and require them to wear “body” cameras? Or use what they were going to have on the national mall and strap cameras to balloons in high probabilistic areas?

  • jcm

    Could they change the law to make ATVs and dirt bikes ridden on city streets subject to civil forfeiture? The police might try a little harder if they could grab them and sell them, like they do with drug dealers’ possessions.

    • contrarian

      Wouldn’t that just put them right back on the street? I mean, who’s going to buy a police auction dirt bike? A teenager.

      • anoan

        in NYC they have started destroying dirt bikes for this very reason.

      • jcm

        Hmm, good point. Maybe they could take them up to NYC and sell them there? Or I guess just cut out the middle man and destroy them.

  • Jessica

    It’s about time. These incidents are scary – whether they happen in the city or on the beltway.

  • ParkViewneighbor

    It’s not like it is a recent concern. The whole gathering of officials will result in a strong press release basically saying “riding atvs on the DC streets is bad”
    nothing will happen

    • atlascesar

      bowser-style government. why fix the problem when you can just hold press conferences to tell the world “there will be a task force”, without actually doing anything? it is a fantastic way to reduce budgetary costs in areas like police and transportation, in order to maximize the money you can feed back to your allies/donors/developers.

      • Jeff

        Hi Park view neighbor! You are completely right. Nothing will be done. I watched a group fly down H St right in front of a cop. He didn’t even both to get on his radio to report it. Our mayor and policeforce is completely useless.

      • annonny

        Yep, yep, yep. How else can we pay for those $6,700 month homeless family apartments???

  • Anonymous

    Residents and I daresay elected officials have known this has been a major problem going on three years now… Why does it take them so long to act? Heaven forbid, we actually do something proactive before this NICU/ambulance issue happened. Crazy concept, huh? Let me guess. Its “all hands on deck” now!

  • U neighbor

    Spitballing here:
    -Start by picking off the idiots who film and post their exploits on youtube/instagram etc.
    -Figure out what site they use to advertise the meetups
    -Use your helicopters to find where they run to. Expensive, maybe, but you’ll probably locate 3 or 4 garages, maybe pick up dozen ATVs jeach time. Doing that regularly might make a dent, or at least show you’re serious
    -Sit on U street or H street or Benning or 14th on any given Sunday evening with a few spike strips ready to roll out
    -Set up a road block along their regular routes and catch them in a corral. I would bring the popcorn.

    • Doc

      I really like the idea of using social media to track them. I’m sure MPD could hire a college intern this summer to track these groups activities via Instagram, facebook, etc. If you know where they are gathering and when, swoop in with a huge police presence and confiscate all vehicles.

      In terms of other way to think outside the box, how about fines for gas stations who sell to illegal vehicles? Obviously, they could start using gas cans, but that would at least be an irritant that might keep them out of the District.

      • textdoc

        “how about fines for gas stations who sell to illegal vehicles?” — I could see this making sense in a state like New Jersey where there’s no self-service gas, but it seems a little unfair/impractical in the District.
        I suppose it would give gas station attendants an incentive to call the police pronto when they see an illegal vehicle fueling up… but still.

        • Anonymous

          While the ATV riders may be jerks, staking out gas stations is likely to result in the riders changing behaviors. They are probably smart enough to start filling up gas cans with fuel rather than riding their vehicles up to the pump.

      • Anonymous

        Fining gas stations for selling gas to “illegal vehicles” makes no sense.
        Gas stations don’t have an obligation to make sure that you are buying gas for a legal purpose. As long as you are not storing the gas in an illegal container, it’s not their problem.
        I know people who live in DC who own off-road vehicles that they actually ride off-road. They fill up those vehicles at gas stations. How are they supposed to prove to a gas station attendant that they are filling up on the way to an off-road location?
        And a car without a registration is an “illegal vehicle.” Should we require gas station to verify that everyone who wants to buy gas is buying it for a car that is registered and insured?

        • Doc

          It’s not the gas station’s problem NOW. You could pass a law that you cannot dispense gas into a non-road legal vehicle. If you are on your way to ride your (trailered) ATV legally somewhere else, you can either it in a gas can OR fill up once you get out of the district. It would be easy enough for gas station operators to monitor the video cameras and just no activate the pumps for an illegal vehicle.

          • C_petworth

            When I use to get gas for an ATV that we had on a lot of private property as kids we use to fill it up in a gas container, the way we would for the lawn mower. Which is legal. You do not need to bring the vehicle to get GAS and so I am not sure how this would help the issue.

        • U neighbor

          The reward in place might work for the gas stations. A regular citizen could probably print the flyer that detail the rewards and distribute to the gas stations, ask them to put it up for the cashiers to see.
          I imagine a lot of them probably already fill gas cans, so it wouldn’t work on them. It would catch the total numbskulls who drive their ATVs to the station to fill up. Low hanging fruit.

        • houseintherear

          I assume the person above meant fines for stations in the district for people actually riding ATVs and dirtbikes into the stations, which is illegal in the district. You can own but cannot drive those vehicles in all of DC, legally speaking. So if you own one and wanted to gas it up for a ride outside of DC, you’d either have it on a trailor, in your pickup, or have a gas container to fill. So basically looking with eyes will resolve the problem of “how are they supposed to prove…”

          • Anonymous

            “Sorry, I can’t sell you gas to put directly in that vehicle. But I can sell you gas if you are going to put in in a container first. Sure, you can use that container you brought with you. Or you can use one of the containers I have available for you to “rent” or purchase.”

        • Doc
      • Jeff

        they use a special gas in these ATV’s, they don’t pull up their ATV’s to gas stations.

        • anon6

          No they don’t, and yes they do.

      • jonah

        I wouldn’t mind seeing gas stations encouraged to use the security camera rebate program to get reliable info on bikes and riders. And it would be great if MPD had an outreach program to gas station attendants who reported them as part of the Bonus to Phone us program. http://mpdc.dc.gov/b2pu

        • C_petworth

          They probably just get the gas filled in gas containers which is legal

  • DZ Rez

    Tolerate and incubate clearly isn’t working.

    Emergency legislation may be needed to change singular driver infraction/misdemeanor to some sort of felony penalty for participating in group reckless driving inciting mayhem?? Wonder what the penalty is for a group of individuals impeding the driving of an emergency vehicle? Simple infraction or misdemeanor?

  • Georgia Ave

    You all realize, of course, that MPD is totally incompetent. MPD is a complete joke. Any other major U.S. city would have forcefully addressed this issue years ago. It is a living, physical example of how little MPD does for the city. When you see these guys riding around town, see it as the manifestation of the festering decades-long corruption that makes the MPD stink.

  • anon

    If the expertise and resources of 10 government law enforcement agencies can’t be used to come up with an effective plan to outsmart a bunch of thugs on dirtbikes and ATVs, then they should all resign. You have the equipment – helicopters, radios, etc – to follow them without having to chase them. There’s no excuse for this to have gone on this long, so it’s time to shut this shit down.

  • stacksp

    Baltimore, New York, Philly and other major cities have a similar issue with ATVs. Maybe look to those areas to see how they deal with it, if at all.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      It is a classic D.C. attitude. Everyone thinks that the problems we have are isolated or worse than what is happening in other cities when if fact they are not (see, e.g., Chicago’s violent crime). I posted an article above of what NYC started doing recently (seizing and destroying atvs), but its not like they have been doing it for years, and it looks like it took a similar shocking incident to get things started.

  • Recreational ATVer

    This is a good start – the best strategy is for MPD to coordinate with Arlington/Alexandria/VSP and arrest them while they are in Virginia, where they will actually take away the ATVs and file charges. Easiest way to catch them is probably to shut the bridge down when they are trying to come back.

  • ET

    You know what is sad. If if that ambulance situation and the cop getting his by one hadn’t happened, the current situation would have continued.

    I am glad they finally seem to realize that doing nothing and using the excuse of not chasing wasn’t working AND that these packs of ATVs riding on the street actually can be dangerous. I seriously don’t think think they understood that this was actually dangerous enough to work as stopping but that they just thought of it as boys having fun.

  • Makhnovisti

    Bringing police into a situation is generally a bad idea, especially these days. Besides, there doesn’t seem to be much they can do in this case.

    I see a few possibilities.

    1. Next month, the gang plows into Rolling Thunder, violence ensues, and a large part of our city’s problem is eliminated.

    2. The gang plows into my fellow Bike Partiers, violence ensues, and a large part of our city’s problem is eliminated, but with possibly serious casualties to us bicyclists.

    3. Citizens who live in buildings along the gang’s routes can spray them with paintball/airsoft/BB/pellet guns from balconies, causing wipeouts. That, or somebody will improvise with street-level traps, or some awesome vigilantes riding sportbikes will battle them Road Rash-style.

    4. The gang injures, kills, or threatens someone dear to the kinds of people who commit all the shootings we read about here. Violence ensues…

    • textdoc

      “Bringing police into a situation is generally a bad idea, especially these days.” Um, law enforcement is their JOB.

      • Makhnovisti

        In theory. In practice, militarized police these days no longer act as peace officers. Police in many ways have always served as the army of the wealthy, but at least in the past they were very lightly armed, and trained to de-escalate situations. The German police fired only 85 bullets in all of 2011, and many of those were warning shots. Police in the US will use that many on one suspect!
        These biker gangs are loathsome, but I want police involved in as few situations as possible. There are other ways of dealing with crime.

        • Doc

          OK, I thought your first post was in jest. Now I realize you are just wacko.

          We need MORE police, not LESS police.

          • Makhnovisti

            The first post was partly in jest, to illustrate how bad things can get if this problem is not addressed. The second, though, is quite serious. Over-policing has nothing to do with crime as such; remember that the decline in crime also happened in countries with very few police, very few police shootings, much less imprisonment, etc.

        • dcd

          “These biker gangs are loathsome, but I want police involved in as few situations as possible. There are other ways of dealing with crime.”
          I’m sure you meant that there are things that can be done to prevent crime, by taking a proactive approach. Because if you meant that AFTER a crime has been committed, there are other ways of dealing with crime, that’s nuts. In fact, there are very few, if any, legal ways to deal with a crime other than by involving the police. I suppose you could just throw up your hands and say, “Never mind, do what you want,” but that solution won’t get too much traction, even here.

          • Makhnovisti

            I’m referring to things like the community policing that has worked so well in Nicaragua, which, despite its poverty, has a very low crime rate, quite unlike its neighbors! Ideally, one can take things a step further, like the Peace and Consensus Committees they have in Rojava. There’s a huge difference between security forces of the state and those of the polis/community/masses/etc.

            I would really like to avoid any more statist violence on our streets. I don’t want to see any more incidents like those on copblock.org or William Norman Grigg’s blog. This is why, in the short term, we should brainstorm some street-level solutions, including vigilantism, but short of using bullets!

        • textdoc

          “The German police fired only 85 bullets in all of 2011, and many of those were warning shots.”
          I agree that many police forces in the U.S. fire their weapons much too readily… but surely part of the disparity is that in Germany, the UK, etc., the public is (generally speaking) not armed?
          It would be better to compare different police forces in the U.S. — ones that try to defuse tense situations and shoot only as a last resort vs. those that don’t.

    • ParkViewneighbor

      So you’re advocating for vigilante justice ??
      It usually works wonders when the mob decides to be judge, jury, executioner. There is a word for that….

      • Makhnovisti

        Yes, but not involving mobs or firearms. Consider the model of the Guardian Angels, and the Real-Life Superhero phenomenon.

  • Any one?

    Posted here before, watch youtube for “DC Bike Life”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbFxY0ZNwBE&nohtml5=False

  • Anonymous

    It’s funny how people think these problems are new and only confined to DC. I grew up in a housing project in NYC in the 80s. There were dudes riding dirtbrikes on the streets and INSIDE the projects even back then. I don’t know what will come of this initiative but at least the City is trying to do something. It’s not like this began the day Bowser was sworn in.

  • Doc
    • Tsar of Truxton

      They actually have pretty good pictures of them, so that’s a start.

  • stacksp
  • 18th Street

    Make these vehicles illegal, even if you’re not operating them. Sweep the neighborhoods, impound, and destroy them.

    Property owners where the vehicles are found are subject to a $10K fine turned over to collection agencies and withhold tax refunds and and public services for delinquent accounts.

    • anon6

      That becomes a problem when the vehicles are located on private property where, absent exigent circumstances, police cannot go without a warrant. But the idea of making them completely illegal — for example, when they are parked on a public street — might help.

    • anoan

      or just make them register at the DMV and give them tags. That would make it easier for the cops to impound and destroy these toys. There is a reason we have this problem with dirt bikes and not cars.

  • TJ

    You can’t fix this problem by just focusing on ATVs alone. How about MPD at least starting with taking all the youth violence against District citizens seriously? I can only assume that some of the viscous beatings that result in a stolen wallet and iphone can at times be for money to obtain an ATV to be like one of the “cool kids”. But then again, maybe we are safer with the kids on ATVs than out looking to bash us over the heads for our wallet. Damn!
    In the end we don’t get paid to propose solutions, that would be MPD and the DC Council. And they have completely failed us in proposing big picture solutions.

    • Doc

      Not disagreeing that there is a larger problem, but if you look at the “wanted posters” just released by MPD, these ATV riders look to be in their 20s and 30s (with a few teenagers sprinkled in), as opposed to the roving gangs of school aged kids on metro and the MBT.

  • Nancy

    We can all take a few minutes to look through this group to see if we recognize someone to do our part.

    • Anonymous

      Subjects 22, 26, 27, and 29 look lost. LOL

      • anonymous

        Subject 24 is either lost or already arrested.

  • anon

    it’s a shame that there can’t be a space for people to ATV safely in DC, removed from main thoroughfares, etc.. obviously the NICU ambulance situation was awful and those people should be punished, but #notallATVers and all that. calling them all criminals just makes you sound obtuse and crotchety.


Subscribe to our mailing list