Cleveland: Dirt bikers menacing city streets is a growing problem

7:04 AM, Jun 19, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- They are the sight and sounds of summertime in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood: Kids laughter on a playground, and the music of an approaching ice cream truck.

It's a typical peaceful summer evening that is sometimes shattered by the loud roar of dirt bikes.

"They're riding their bikes on the streets and up on the sidewalks, " said Cheryl Bawley, mother of 2. "A kid could be run over."

Urban dirt bike cruising is rising in popularity, as YouTube videos and social media allow riders to show off, and organize rides. Police began seeing dirt bikes on city streets about 4 years ago, but the problem has exploded, since the bikes are cheap, often stolen, and tough to trace.

They are terrorizing neighborhoods and frustrating police.

"It's a two-fold concern," says Capt. Dennis Hill, from the 5th District of the Cleveland Police Department. "We're concerned about the safety of not just the rider, but the motorists and pedestrians that he might encounter. It's also a quality of life issue."

The problem is getting out of hand in cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore, where dirt bike gangs are feature in this year's critically-acclaimed documentary film, "The 12 O'clock Boys."

In Cleveland, police are not yet ready to connect local bike groups with gang activity.

However, last month, two members of a Cleveland dirt bike group were shot and killed while riding through East 173rd and Throckley. Police call it a targeted murder. They have made no arrests.

Stopping a group of dirt bikers would be easy -- if police could catch them first.

"Our pursuit police does not allow us to pursue," said Capt. Hill. "Unfortunately, they know that, so we have to come up with a new strategy, maybe saturate a neighborhood when we hear of a problem, so that it can be a deterrent."

He also urges neighbors to help identify riders, and help police locate where the illegal bikes are stored.

"We may not be able to pursue them, but we hope to fight them another day."


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