PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia police made two arrests and confiscated 13 vehicles in an operation Wednesday targeting illegal off-road vehicles, authorities said Thursday. Police said the sweeps focused on Center City and Southwest Philadelphia and more operations are in the works.
This comes after Eyewitness News obtained exclusive video from Broad Street resident Tom Ayers showing dozens of ATV, dirt bike, and motorcycle riders bringing traffic to a halt at South Street on Sunday.
The video showed most of them riding in the opposite direction of traffic.
“They’ll run red lights, they’ll stop traffic so they can go by and oftentimes, these are dirt bikes and ATVs that don’t have headlights,” Ayers said. “They’re not street legal.”
Mayor Jim Kenney said Thursday the city is aware of the community’s frustration.
“It’s been an increasing problem and I think the pandemic has contributed to people being bored and doing things they shouldn’t be doing. It is a dangerous situation,” Kenney said. “The off-road vehicles are not street legal for Philadelphia or any place that’s not off-road. We have been monitoring social media to find out where these vehicles are stored. My understanding is that they’re stored in large amounts.”
Kenney said authorities are using social media to track rideouts, where riders ride together to places, but safety remains a concern when attempting to confiscate the vehicles.
“One of the issues that we face when it comes to intercepting them is it’s like a high-speed chase. When the vehicles are moving at a high rate of speed, an officer in a car trying to stop that, creates difficulties and danger for the rider, the officer, and those on the street,” the mayor said.”While I realize the ATVs cause danger on those on the street, it’s an awkward problem for us trying to find a strategy to deal with it. But we’re dealing with it. ”
Broad Street appears to be a favorite destination for the riders, but it’s an issue in many parts of the city. Eyewitness News has several videos from the past few months of riders operating recklessly in traffic.
“I saw a young woman with a stroller almost hit by an ATV on the South Street sidewalk,” Rick Piper, another Center City resident, said.
A group of Center City residents has reached out to city officials and police because they feel not enough is being done to stop these illegal rides.
Councilman Mark Squilla, who represents part of Center City, is corresponding with the group and said police have a detail to specifically deal with this issue. They’ve seized some 100 ATVs and dirt bikes between two sweeps this summer, with plans to do more.
“If we send a message that it’s not going to be tolerated, if you’re on the streets with an illegal bike, it will be confiscated, people are a lot less likely, to maybe pay good dollars for this type of vehicle to have it taken away,” Squilla said.
CBS3’s Trang Do contributed to this report.