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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

APD to rethink approach, tactics to stop urban dirt bike and A.T.V. riders

Posted By on Tue, Aug 26, 2014 at 3:40 PM

MOTOR AWAY: ATL Bike Life riders venture westbound on Ralph McGill Boulevard during a recent Bike Life Sunday ride. Every week, several dozen dirt bikers and A.T.V. riders travel around the city in large packs.
  • Jorge Sigala
  • MOTOR AWAY: ATL Bike Life riders venture westbound on Ralph McGill Boulevard during a recent Bike Life Sunday ride. Every week, several dozen dirt bikers and A.T.V. riders travel around the city in large packs.
The Atlanta Police Department is looking for new ways to step up efforts to respond to packs of dirt bike and A.T.V. riders cruising through the city's streets, neighborhoods, and public parks.

In response to a massive 300-person ride on Aug. 17, plus a flurry of resident complaints following last week's #ATLBikeLife cover story, APD officials say they're revisiting new ways to potentially curb street riders who are breaking the law.

"Let me state in no uncertain terms: APD is not going to tolerate these lawbreakers and we are doing something about it," APD spokesman Carlos Campos tells CL. "But we have to approach this in a thoughtful way. Engaging these dirt bike and ATV riders in high-speed pursuits for misdemeanor violations is a dangerous undertaking - for police, for riders, and for other motorists and pedestrians. We simply cannot chase them down city streets. We recognize these riders present not only a nuisance, but also a public safety hazard, to our citizens. We must address this in a thoughtful, comprehensive manner. And we will."

Atlanta Police Chief George Turner has asked his zone commanders to come up with a plan. APD has a strict no-chase policy that only allows officers to pursue violent suspects. Carlos says those rules are in place to protect the lives of officers and residents.

Since reckless riding is only a misdemeanor, police previously have tried dispersing dirt bike packs with their blue lights, following riders in helicopters, and jotting down riders' home addresses for potential arrests in the future. Riders are currently subject to fines between from $250 to $1,000, up to six months in jail, and possible vehicle seizure depending on prior run-ins with the law.

Campos declined to comment on the record about what specific tactics might be used against riders in order to not reveal those strategies.

"The community is correct to be concerned about these riders, and they are correct in expecting action from APD," he says. "We will provide that action in a measured, thoughtful manner that does not endanger lives."

We've asked Mayor Kasim Reed's office multiple times for his thoughts on urban dirt biking. The mayor refrained from comment for the Aug. 21 story on #ATLBikeLife. "He doesn’t feel like he knows enough about the issue," Reed spokeswoman Anne Torres said in an Aug. 6 email. The mayor declined to comment today when asked again about dirt bike and A.T.V. riders.

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