By Alexandria Hoff

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — An emergency meeting was held virtually Wednesday evening to address what community leaders are calling “escalating safety issues” caused by illegal ATVs and street bikes.

“People are scared. They are getting swarmed,” said Eleanor Ingersoll, president of Queen Village Neighbors Association and host of the evening’s forum. “They are going out to eat, they don’t feel safe.”

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The immediate need for the discussion was attributed to street chaos that took place on Wednesday, April 28, specifically in the residential areas around South Street, but residents citywide say the disturbance is constant.

“This issue has gotten bigger and bigger and bigger each day we have a nice day, ” Councilmember-At-Large Derek Green said.

The potential danger of the illegal activity was highlighted in March when an ATV rider attempted to smash a driver’s window during a rage. He was later arrested.

“This is illegal activity that is chasing people out of this city at a time when we need people to come back to the city,” Councilman-At-Large, Allan Domb said.

According to Deputy Police Commissioner Joel Dales, the Department’s ATV Detail has been active since March. So far this year, 200 illegal street vehicles have been confiscated.

How long they are confiscated and officers’ ability to pursue such vehicles was a major point of the conversation.

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“Maybe they should be trained so they can chase these vehicles and they can confiscate and destroy these vehicles,” Domb said.

Councilmember Mark Squilla, who represents the 1st District, said that he is introducing legislation on Thursday to help better define ATVs and other street vehicles.

“What this legislation will do is to group all the illegal vehicles into one form and then give police the authority to confiscate them,” he said.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, arrests are rare, and if charges are filed, the most common offenses related to riding illegal ATVs and street bikes are misdemeanors. The office is interested in working with the police department to make such offenses easier to prosecute.

The city’s Streets Department is also working on a pilot plan to calm roadways but added that road closures can also negatively affect businesses who rely on deliveries or customer traffic.

The potential for ATV Parks, a crackdown on storage sites and even prohibiting the sale of fuel to illegal vehicles was brought up in the meeting. Like the rest of the ideas, they would require additional manpower and funding.

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The plan is to have the group reconvene in one month to discuss how City Council might allocate funds and what action will officially take place.

Alexandria Hoff