Send­ing mes­sage to sco±aws, D.C. po­lice shred il­le­gal dirt bikes and ATVs

Author­i­ties are bat­tling riders who flout traf­fic laws and frus­trate pub­lic

The Washington Post Sunday - - OBITUARIES - THE RE­GION BY PETER HER­MANN peter.her­mann@wash­post.com

The crane’s 66-foot-long arm reached down to the flatbed truck, spread its gi­ant claws and grabbed hold of four dirt bikes and all-ter­rain ve­hi­cles.

The crane op­er­a­tor, perched high above, raised his prey into the air and swung it around, plac­ing the ve­hi­cles gen­tly on a con­veyor belt. Within sec­onds, a ma­chine sep­a­rated metal from plas­tic and rub­ber, and 450pound steel “teeth” trans­formed the bikes and ATVs into 14,180 pounds of shred­ded metal that will be sold all over the world.

A sin­gle dirt bike — whose riders travel in packs, flout­ing traf­fic laws and ag­i­tat­ing mo­torists and pedes­tri­ans by pop­ping wheel­ies on side­walks — can be com­pacted into a fist-size cube of metal.

D.C. po­lice on Satur­day de­stroyed 62 dirt bikes and ATVs, hauled to an area scrap yard in five trucks. All had ei­ther been aban­doned, seized as part of a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion or taken be­cause they were not reg­is­tered and never claimed.

But in­stead of auc­tion­ing the bikes, and as they do with seized firearms, po­lice de­cided to send a dif­fer­ent mes­sage.

“We don’t want them to re­turn to the street,” said Bill Sarvis, di­rec­tor of the D.C. po­lice cor­po­rate sup­port bureau, which is re­spon­si­ble for man­ag­ing equip­ment, sup­plies and the agency’s fleet of ve­hi­cles.

Dirt-bike riders are fix­tures in Bal­ti­more and the District, draw­ing com­plaints from res­i­dents and frus­tra­tions from po­lice who pro­hibit of­fi­cers from chas­ing them, say­ing it is too dan­ger­ous. In­stead, po­lice use sur­veil­lance pho­to­graphs to try to iden­tify bikes and riders, as well as tips from the pub­lic to seize the ve­hi­cles. Peo­ple who pro­vide in­for­ma­tion to the po­lice that leads to the seizure of an il­le­gal bike can re­ceive an award of up to $250.

On June 25, more than 100 riders cruised through the H Street cor­ri­dor of North­east Wash­ing­ton and the streets of the Na­tional Har­bor in Prince George’s County. Po­lice sent up he­li­copters to fol­low the group, which wove through Sun­day evening traf­fic and turned side­walks into road­ways for more than a half an hour.

D.C. po­lice pub­li­cized 54 pic­tures of riders and bikes hop­ing to get tips. Po­lice Chief Peter New­sham termed the event “ter­ror­iz­ing.”

“We hope those who il­le­gally and reck­lessly op­er­ate these ve­hi­cles will see [the shred­ding] as a sym­bolic ges­ture that this type of be­hav­ior won’t be tol­er­ated in the District of Columbia,” New­sham said in a state­ment. “The com­mu­nity is fed up with this be­hav­ior. As long as they con­tinue en­dan­ger­ing the lives of ev­ery­one on our streets, [the Metropoli­tan Po­lice Depart­ment] will con­tinue con­fis­cat­ing and de­stroy­ing these ve­hi­cles.”

In 2016, D.C. po­lice ar­rested 56 peo­ple on charges of il­le­gally driv­ing dirt bikes and ATVs, as well as seiz­ing 41 ve­hi­cles. Po­lice have made more than 20 ar­rests and con­fis­cated 10 bikes so far this year.

Own­ers of the com­pany that crushed the bikes Satur­day al­lowed ac­cess to a re­porter and pho­tog­ra­pher on the con­di­tion that the name and lo­ca­tion not be pub­lished. A com­pany of­fi­cial said they feared the bikes’ own­ers would come look­ing for ve­hi­cles or seek ret­ri­bu­tion.

The vast scrap yard is filled with piles of metal, in­clud­ing old cars, wash­ing ma­chines, gro­cery carts and oil drums. It takes 30 sec­onds to com­press a car into a suit­case-size cube. But most of the ve­hi­cles are shred­ded into small bits of metal to be turned into steel rods, beams and pipes.

Charles Thomp­son Jr., a su­per­vi­sor at the D.C. po­lice main­te­nance lot at Blue Plains in South­east Wash­ing­ton, said he rides dirt bikes, but he keeps them off-road.

“They’re il­le­gal on the street, so don’t ride them there,” he said af­ter driv­ing one of the flatbed trucks tied down with more than a dozen bikes. “These are some bikes that won’t be used by riders to kick the sides of po­lice cars.”

When the fifth truck emp­tied, Thomp­son climbed onto the bed with a large push broom and swept some of the de­bris that had fallen from the clutches of the crane — a head­light, a han­dle­bar and some bro­ken glass. The job over, he jumped down and glanced up at the last of the bikes head­ing up the con­veyor belt and to­ward the 450-pound teeth.

“These won’t ter­ror­ize any­one any­more,” Thomp­son said.

KATE PAT­TER­SON FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

The crane’s claw scoops up a dirt bike seized as part of a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volv­ing riders who vi­o­late traf­fic rules. Po­lice on Satur­day de­stroyed 62 dirt bikes and all-ter­rain ve­hi­cles.

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