The problem: dirt bikes. Those motorized, unlicensed two-wheel vehicles that youths ride at high speeds through some inner-city neighborhoods seemingly at any hour.
The solution, at least according to William Roberts Sr.: Scare tactics. Try to videotape the youths as they ride or create an illusion that the streets and sidewalks are unsafe for motor bikes.
Then spread the word about the riding hazards and see how long they cruise the streets.
"That's not really a joke, either," said Roberts, who lives in the 2000 block of Walbrook Ave. in West Baltimore, one of the neighborhoods where residents claim the problem is severe.
"I just let them know that we're going to get them."
The loud, buzzing annoyance of dirt bikes in the Greater Mondawmin neighborhood where Roberts lives has increased considerably in recent weeks. He's seen at least nine different riders and on some nights has heard the roar of the bikes as late as 2:30 a.m.
One resident said the roar drowns out the telephone ring. Another said the bikes' rumble creates a similar effect in his stomach, "only the bikes' rumble comes and goes. The one in my stomach comes and stays."
Still another keeps his hand on the television remote button, pushing the volume to full tilt when the bikes near his home, then easing it down as they ride away.
And some streets in his once-quiet neighborhood have become raceways with pedestrians having to dodge dirt bikes on the sidewalks.
At times, Roberts said, as many as six bikes race abreast on narrow streets.
"That's right, six dirt bikes on the streets. Not in a row, but all across the street," he said.
Residents said that on some evenings -- often when traffic is at its heaviest -- dirt bikers race six abreast from North Avenue to Gwynns Falls Parkway near Mondawmin Mall -- a half-mile
runway with no stop signs or traffic lights.
The bikers often dart through the busy intersections at North Avenue and Monroe Street.
"It's like being at Daytona Raceway. Just stand out there and watch them race. Great fun," one resident said. "It's really pretty exciting to watch, but this is in the heart of the big city and most of the riders could care less about wearing helmets. Do you think they care about our safety."
One woman said she saw a bike hurtle a moving car "Evel Knievel style" and land with both the bike and driver unharmed. "Amazing, truly," she said.
Police said incidents of dirt bikes being ridden have been reported from many sections in the city. Spokeswoman Arlene Jenkins said that most of the bikes are illegal and not meant to be ridden on city streets.
She said most of the bikes are for off-road use and not equipped with headlights, tail lights, reflectors or the proper brakes. She said that if police see them, they will stop the bikers.
One rider, who is 15 and said he lives outside of Roberts' Greater Mondawmin neighborhood, rides a large yellow dirt bike with large tires that have little tread.
He said he will continue to ride his dirt bike despite the residents' complaint and has even ridden in front of and behind police cars without any opposition.
"It ain't nobody's business where I ride," he said. "Police don't mind. It's just like riding a motorcycle, except I don't have tags and I'm not 16. People don't say a thing to me when I ride cause there's not nothing wrong where I ride."
Virginia Ward, 83, who has lived in the 2000 block of N. Pulaski St. for 40 years, said the noise is often deafening and keeps her awake at night.
"I guess the police have to be able to catch them, but that's not too easy," Ward said.
Roberts, who has lived on Walbrook Avenue for 44 years and has gained some notice for his use of a video camera to film drug transactions in his neighborhood, said he has tried to tape some of the riders but they move too fast.
"I worry about them because I think that someone is going to get hurt sooner or later," Roberts said. "I think about that little girl Tiffany [Smith] who got killed. I hope no one around here gets hurt."