Crime busters on dirt bikes Adding mobility: Purchase of 30 bikes allows city police to start patrols in difficult terrain.

July 18, 1996

THE RECENT PURCHASE of 30 dirt bikes adds another

weapon to the city police department's crime-busting arsenal that ranges from bicycles to helicopters. It now remains for the police to demonstrate that the new dirt bikes can truly improve patrolling and add a new dimension to it.

"The bikes are going to be used. . . to go where cars can't," pledges Maj. John E. Gavrilis, whose Southeastern district includes many parks, industrial and commercial areas.

That's how it should be. The advantage of dirt bikes is their speed and ability to go where police cruisers cannot. This make them particularly useful in such assignments as patrolling park areas where vandalism and illegal dumping are problems.

Far more questionable is the use of police dirt bikes to chase dirt bikes belonging to youngsters and drug dealers who are among the summer time banes of many inner-city neighborhoods. In such neighborhoods, officers riding dirt bikes can increase the visibility of police. But going after riders zipping through neighborhood streets and alleys at night -- often going against the traffic and without headlights -- is just too dangerous to do, except in unusual cases.

Yet a crackdown on illegal dirt bikes in the city is long overdue. Efforts to control dirt bikes through legislative and administrative means have failed miserably. A law that requires dirt bikes to be registered is being disregarded. The same goes for fire regulations that bar storage of gasoline inside human dwellings, where many dirt bikes are kept.

It is hard to believe that police cannot curb dirt bikes through crackdowns that are based on intelligence gathering and subsequent raids. If neighborhood kids know who has dirt bikes and where they are kept, the police should be able to gather that information as well.

Many dirt bikers are joy riders. Others got money for their machines from drug dealers and use the bikes to run errands for them. In either case, the time has come for the police to end the nightly terror of noise and reckless speeding by illegal dirt bikers.

Pub date: 7/18/96

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