There are fewer illegal dirt bikes and 4 wheelers cruising the streets of Charm City

BPD dirt bike task force credited with impact
Posted at 11:49 PM, Sep 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-20 23:52:59-04

It's a part of Charm City culture.  For years, packs of riders on illegal dirt bikes and ATVs have gunned down city streets, weaving through traffic, and pulling dangerous stunts.

But according to the Baltimore City Police Department, the numbers have dwindled.

"We only have a couple areas in the city right now we're seeing riding, it's not the big packs any more, it's in the neighborhoods,” said Sgt. Christopher Warren.  “They're not really riding in the big packs anymore at all."

Warren leads the dirt bike task force.  The four-officer unit launched last summer to stamp out the careless cruising.
This week, ABC 2 News went with the task force as they patrolled East Baltimore.

"This is an area we check out because people will tend to ride dirt bikes up and down the street," Warren said.

The task force focuses on identifying and arresting riders, works with cops on the streets to snatch bikes and zero in on chase cars, and follows-up on tips texted and called into the hotline from folks in the neighborhoods.

"They've given us locations where bikes are being stored, descriptions of the riders, and the times and locations where the activity is occurring," Detective Dave Jones said.

BPD doesn't want to put anyone in danger, so officers can't chase dirt bikes.

Watching from above, the police can spot riders and stashed bikes.  A vital asset in the aggressive enforcement.

"When our helicopter unit isn't concentrating on a robbery, a homicide, or a shooting and they have time, they'll follow a dirt bike, and they'll follow it till he goes to his house or until he drops it," said Warren.

Last week, the pilot trailed a suspect until he bailed off the ATV and started running.  The footage captured him falling and dropping a 9mm handgun, then ditching it in some weeds.

Since the task force started, officers have taken eight-firearms off the streets, and more than 300 illegal bikes and 4 wheelers have been seized.

All of the confiscated dirt bikes and ATVs are brought to a city impound lot, and the majority will never make it back out on city streets.  About 30% of the bikes and quads turn out to be stolen.  Those are returned to the owners, and the rest are destroyed.

The night we were out with the unit, the impact was noticeable.  In areas of the city where riding used to be rampant, only small pockets remain. 

"There's one right there, and he sees us,” Warren said.  “Obviously he's unmasked, we're not gonna pursue him, we're not gonna put him in danger, but we'll see if we can kinda see where he goes."
This night he got away.  But that doesn't mean the rider's in the clear.  If any cameras got video, the task force can figure out who he is, get an arrest warrant and take the dirt bike.
Keeping them off the road, and keeping everyone safe. 

"Realistically, is every dirt bike in Baltimore going to be seized?  No.  Is it an ongoing battle?  It's an absolutely ongoing battle, but we won a big part of the war with what we've done," said Warren.
And they don't plan on stopping any time soon.

Anyone arrested for riding or hiding a dirt bike or 4 wheeler in Baltimore can face up to 90-days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.
Call the dirt bike task force tipline at 443-902-4474 if you have any leads.