Police have taken a new step in their the battle to remove illegal dirt bikes and their freewheeling riders from the streets of Baltimore, creating an email address where residents can report the bikes anonymously.
"All the way around, it's a menace, and we have to take some action," said Maj. Johnny Delgado, the commander of the Northwestern District, who launched the initiative.
Riding dirt bikes in the city limits is against the law, as is storing them in a house or a shed with gasoline, police said. They are asking people to email firstname.lastname@example.org if they have information on riders or where the bikes are stored.
In recent years, a growing number of teens and young adults have taken to riding dirt bikes through the city streets, popping wheelies and performing other tricks at high speeds that have caused fatal car accidents. Videos of the rides, where riders sometimes taunt police to chase them, can be found on YouTube.
This year, The New York Times featured several riders in an online pictorial called "Popping Wheelies in Charm City," and filmmaker Lotfy Nathan released a documentary entitled the "12 O'Clock Boys" that received attention at film festivals including the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
Locally, dirt bike riders have been seen in Northwest Baltimore holding rallies and rides on an area of Reisterstown Road that abuts Druid Hill Park, Delgado said, where spectators can sit on a hill and watch.
"It's all over YouTube, and it's a danger to our city," said Lt. Craig Hartman, commander of the Baltimore police regional auto theft task force. "The way they ride is a danger to the public. I'll be honest, a lot of these riders are looking for attention. That's why they're on YouTube. … That's why they want police to chase them."
On Sunday, police responded to the 1600 block of N. Ellamont St., where they found a man lying in the middle of the street who had been shot, bleeding from his head to his knees. Police said the victim had been riding his dirt bike when someone wearing a white shirt shot him with a black handgun.
The state legislature also has addressed the issue of dirt bikes, passing a law this year sponsored by Del. Shawn Z. Tarrant, a Baltimore Democrat, that suspends driver's licenses for people caught driving illegal dirt bikes on highways.
Police estimate that almost 30 percent of seized dirt bikes are stolen. Police, prohibited from chasing the riders in high-speed pursuits, are concentrating on seizing the bikes. Police said dirt bikes seized will be impounded. Those legally owned with proper paperwork and registration would be returned to owners while bikes found to be stolen would be returned to their rightful owners or destroyed, police said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Erin Cox contributed to this article.
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