Police need your help to clear streets of illegal ATVs and dirt bikes

May 22, 2012

Police are seeking residents’ help getting those pesky – and often dangerous – dirt bikes and ATVs off the streets.

Most of these things are illegal and they become more pervasive in the summer months, prompting concern across the city, including residents of West Philadelphia. Police are asking that if you see one on the street to call 911.

Here are a few other things to know when reporting an illegal use of these vehicles:

“Be prepared to provide a description of the vehicle and its operator,” according to Philly Police Blog. “Understand that these bikes and ATVs are moving vehicles and are often not in the area when an officer responds. Officers are trained to evaluate the danger that stopping these vehicles will pose to the public before attempting to pull it over. Also, it is important that citizens make every attempt to stay out of the way of these violators to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.”

You can also help the police if you can provide information about who has this vehicle, where it is stored, or if it is stolen. You can submit this information as a tip. You can send your tip as a text message to short code PPDTIP, email it to, or call 215-686-TIPS(8477).

53 Comments For This Post

  1. roxy l Says:

    we got circled by a ‘gang’ of teenagers/young men on dirt bikes at ATVs at the gas station on the corner of grays ferry and university- they were circling and doing wheelies like a group of criminals in a bad action movie. my mother was visiting and was terrified, anddddd it was hilarious.

    sure, ATVs and dirt bikes are annoying and can be unsafe, but jamming young members of our community up in the legal system for non-violent crimes is a lot worse for west philly than some dirt bikes on the road.

  2. lewis Says:

    they could of just as easy been riding a BMX lol. the police hype it up because its against the law. NOT PUBLIC SAFETY!

  3. mowfaux Says:

    Do they go to jail? I thought they just get fines and the vehicle can get impounded

  4. brendan Says:

    Two months ago I was walking home when I saw one of those jackasses deliberately run a red light at 51st and Kingsessing. And when I say “deliberate” I mean the light had already changed, the rider came to almost a complete stop, revved his engine and then shot out across the street.

    Unfortunately for him, the car coming the opposite direction did not anticipate his act of jackassery, and as a result the jackass was hit full speed, went flying about 15 feet in the air, and landed on his head (with his leg broken below the knee at a right angle).

    So I did the responsible thing. I called 911, and then gave the car driver my number telling her I saw the whole thing, and that if she had any trouble, I would testify that it was the jackass who ran the light that was at fault. I hate those things.

  5. shazoooo! Says:

    That’s the thing, people get hurt, and these kids also can end up dead. Doing nothing isn’t going to help the issue. SOMETHING needs to be done, for sure. They run lights and stop signs ALL the time!

  6. rebakatt Says:

    Yeah… well.. most of them don’t wear helmets and they often run stop signs while poppin’ wheelies… I like to think that Father Darwin will take care of many of these pesky problems.

  7. rebakatt Says:

    … Of course… when they do end up in the hospital for months and then lengthy physical rehab and care for the rest of their lives as the result of TBIs… it’ll be on the taxpayer dime.

  8. brendan Says:

    The police should just keep a cruiser parked at the Sunoco on 45th and Baltimore and wait. I often see these guys heading north on 45th Street. They either go across Baltimore Avenue and proceed north or they turn up Springfield Ave heading west. The police should just keep a rotation of cruisers around the Sunoco especially around early evenings. These bikes are dangerous, not just to the operators but to pedestrians and motorists. They run red lights like they aren’t there. They speed up the bike lane to pass traffic. I grew up in a rural environment and know first hand that these are dangerous vehicles to operate in an open field. Operating them recklessly in an urban neighborhood complete with motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and their children and/or dogs is a recipe for disaster. I can’t believe that good old fashioned police work can’t uncover the garages where these bikes are kept. Once they do that all they have to do is wait until the bikes and atvs are driven on the street. I’ve also heard it alledged that these are being used by drug dealers because they know that the police have a standing order not to pursue a dirt bike. I’m not sure if that is true or not however.

  9. Rachel Says:

    These guys come around my area frequently in West Philly and they’re annoying. Not only are the ATVs unnecessarily loud, but the operators rarely have the consideration to abide by traffic laws which makes the roads that much more dangerous for the rest of us. Accidents and deaths happen all too often in Philly and any that would result from this activity is 100% preventable. Many people are out and about as the ATV riders run around without regard for anyone else’s safety – vehicles or pedestrians. If I was a mom with a young child, I’d think twice before walking in the direction where they’re seen frequently. Having laws that prevent these types of vehicles from operating in the streets of Philly exist for a reason – if those laws aren’t enforced as intended to maintain safety on the streets, they serve no purpose. If an ATV rider caused damage to property/a vehicle, you think they’re going to remain at the scene??? NOPE!!! In addition, why should Philly residents and police give these guys any reason to think they can do whatever they want like they own the city?!! I’ve been waiting for a way to report these guys and you better believe I’m EXCITED to do just that.

  10. Karena Says:

    I have mixed feelings on this issue. We have had ATVs racing down our street (48th Street, just south of Baltimore Ave) since it started getting warm. I mean RACING – blowing through traffic lights and stop signs at what I’m guessing is somewhere between 30-50mph without slowing down, and I’ve seen them pull out in the opposing traffic lane to pass other cars. It really is dangerous, and though maybe non-violent has the potential to do some fatal damage if they ever hit anyone crossing the street or in the bike lane, because they ride with complete disregard for any traffic laws or common sense.

    At the same time, rounding up the youth in our community and pitting them against the legal system isn’t a great option either. I wish there was somewhere safe for these kids to get out their energy and ride and do tricks without being reckless on the street. Who knows if they’d actually use a designated area, or if anyone would be willing to deal with the liability that might come with making some sort of ATV arena, but at least it would be a positive attempt to work with them instead of against them.

    Kids need outlets for their energy and free time during the summer. Having fun and safe environments to be kids is a deficiency our youth face – in cities and in the country too. It seems like our communities are very quick to tell kids what they can’t and shouldn’t do, but fail to provide them with alternatives.

  11. Sadie Says:

    As a cyclist, I am terrified of these kids recklessly weaving into bike lanes. I really hope the attempts to get them off the streets are successful.

  12. Lo Says:

    As a bike commuter Ive had several close calls with groups of these kids. They dont care at all about pedestrian, bike, or car traffic. I hope they all get hit by cars or arrested.

  13. Anon Says:

    @brendan, I guess you missed the part where the police are asking for your help in doing exactly what you want them to: “You can also help the police if you can provide information about who has this vehicle, where it is stored, or if it is stolen. You can submit this information as a tip. You can send your tip as a text message to short code PPDTIP, email it to, or call 215-686-TIPS(8477).”

  14. brendan Says:

    Call me heartless but I disagree with those of you who say you are not going to call the police because you do not want to put kids into the juvenille legal system. These kids are breaking several laws: operating a vehicle that is not street legal, without the motorcycle license, without insurance, and without following traffic laws. This is basic good citizen 101 stuff. You can not cherry pick who you are going to report based on some misguided sense of protecting a juvenille offender from “the system.” And to Karena, if you are seeing these kids drag racing on your street than you should most definitely call the cops. Not only is what you describe incredibly dangerous. But the police would have a good opportunity of actually catching these kids if they are staying confined to your street. They could cut off the intersections and move in. I am sorry but if it were on my street I would not hesitate to call 911. You don’t owe children who are knowingly breaking the law anything. You owe your neighbors however. This is not the time for social engineering. If you think the kids need an outlet, fine. But laws are written for a reason. There is nothing arbitrary about traffic laws. They are the very definition of laws written for the common good. And since when do we let people break a law because they need an outlet? If a kid wants an outlet there are hundreds of completely legal things they can do.

  15. brendan Says:

    @Anon, I’m not sure if you’re talking to me. There is another “Brendan” also posting here. He did the first post and I did the second and third post from a “Brendan.” But no I did not miss that part of the article. I was saying that it would be a good idea if they planted a cruiser at the Sunoco on 45th and Baltimore they could spot the kids and call in other cars to apprehend them in a way that would not involve a chase.

  16. katherine Says:

    I’m sorry, but why do we need to “work with” these motorists who could really give two hoots about the lives of others? I have witnessed them riding their dirt bikes the wrong way down our one way street, riding through cedar park on a busy day (the park filled with children), and blowing through stop signs and lights. There are people in the community who actually want and need help. Judging by the run-ins with these kids, they are not. I will gladly call 911. Funny, one just rode by–

  17. Stacey Says:

    I’ll do everything I can to help. I’ve almost been run down twice by these scumbags now, once crossing Kingsessing at 47th when a pack of them came flying up to the intersection and blew right through the red light; another time walking on the sidewalk on Walnut between 50th and 51st. Yes, the SIDEWALK. I heard a bike coming but at the time was suffering from a severe pollen allergy in my eyes and didn’t realize he was barreling down the sidewalk, not the road, until he was a few feet away and almost hit me. And that was no kid, either. Glad people like Roxy are able to find the humor in what is clearly such a “hilarious” situation.

  18. Sarah Says:

    Although I see the real problems with tossing teenagers into the legal system, I hate seeing them risking their own and other’s lives. I see way too many young men who are paralyzed or brain-injured. I’d almost rather see a 15 year old get in trouble with the law than see him spend the next 15 years in a wheelchair or a bed till he dies of infection or kidney failure. We tend to thwart Darwin a bit with technology..they don’t always die right away, they linger on with great suffering and cost.

  19. brendan Says:

    If you witness a crime and do not report it you are in no way doing any part of society a favor. I don’t care if you witness a murder and don’t call it in or if you witness a prolonged illegal dirt bike race down your street. That kind of severly misguided thinking is what keeps young people in a life of crime and puts all of your neighbors at risk. I am sorry to be so blunt but that is just the most frustratingly stupid excuse I have ever heard.

  20. bzfgt Says:

    The first Brendan is a narc. He’s gonna get his when the Dirt Bike Mafia catches up to him…

  21. shazoooo! Says:

    good thing he’ll hear them coming so he can slip out the back!

  22. Tony Says:

    yeah these kids are jackasses. i am definitely not in favor of being punitive toward juveniles, but these kids are assholes who put peoples lives in danger. ive seen them race around kingsessing rec center on numerous occasions, crossing crowded basketball courts and doing all types of dumb shit, as well as jack hammering everyones ears with the obnoxious sounds of their motors. as soon as we get nice weather, you can hear them zipping around everywhere. one dumbass just got nailed by a car a block from my house, near the rec center. i feel bad for him, of course, i dont want anyone to get hurt, but they put everyone at risk with how they ride around on these things.

    who the fuck is buying them these things? if they are juveniles how can they afford them?

  23. Didi Says:

    Wasn’t there some discussion of having a track for dedicated use of ATVs at Cobbs Creek Park? I don’t like these being on 47th Street with the small school children and older neighbors with limited mobility, but these guys do need an outlet for their energy and since they risk getting shot at basketball games at the Rec Center…

  24. shazoooo! Says:

    Are these bikes registered and insured? I can’t see the city building this park to allow non-insured/registered vehicles use it, not to mention, a lot of the kids with these things are under aged, so they’re not supposed to be on them at all

  25. foodog Says:

    I think that they buy them from the police, when the cops auction the impounded vehicles off… I hate to say it, but they should probably destroy non-street-legal vehicles rather than selling them at auction.

  26. Andrew Says:

    Before I begin, let me say that I do not, in any way, condone the illegal use of dirt bikes in Philadelphia. I am a law abiding dirt bike user, using them only off-road, with prior permission from the land-owner only.

    That being said, I need West Philadelphia’s help in finding my dirt bike that was stolen last night in West Philadelphia (19151). It is a 2008 Yamaha YZ450F, blue and white, with the numbers 379 on both sides and the front.

    Please call the police tip line if you see anyone riding on the street, especially if you see one matching the description of my stolen bike. I am offering a reward for information leading to its return.

    Thank you!

  27. shazoooo! Says:

    I’ll keep an eye out for your bike, Andrew!

  28. brendan Says:

    The city has no obligation to provide an outlet for it’s citizens, let alone young, uninsured and unlicensed dirt bike and atv riders who have clearly demonstrated a lack of concern for safety. This idea that we should build a dirt bike park is crazy. I am not a cold hearted anti-government conservative type. I am fine with paying taxes for rec centers, libraries, swimming pools, etc. But I am not bleeding heart liberal enough to bend over and let thugs scare the tax payer into spending money we don’t have to build a park that would have an insurance liability out the wazoo for us the tax payer and that would only cater to a small portion of the public. If a kid really wants to take up dirt bikes they can do it legally. They can wait until they are of age and can ask permission of a private landowner to operate their bikes on their property. A public dirt bike park would have to involve tons of regulations and monitors. It would cost a fortune to insure. You would need people there to make sure that no one is driving overly recklessly and that everyone is of age to ride a vehicle. And in the end it would not guarantee you would take a dirt bike out of our streets where they do not belong. In fact most likely you would have these dirt bikes still riding through red lights on their way to this park. Do you really think these kids would do the legal thing and walk their dirtbikes and atvs to the park? Or have them carried in an pick-up until they get to this park? What’s next, we spend tax payer money to meet the “need” of hunting afficianados to go shoot their high powered rifles off on city property? There are things government should provide and there are things that private citizens need to provide themselves. Hell, I wish I could ride a roller coaster home. It’s not going to happen!

  29. Jeff D. Says:

    I’ll keep an eye out, Andrew. And speaking only for myself- I don’t think anyone here has a problem with dirt bikers as long as they’re being safe and legal. These bozos are neither.

  30. Marian Says:

    All the police need to do is go to Belmont Plateau (sp??) on the weekend and they will have a dirt bike and ATV fest! There were probably about 50 there on Sunday acting like a-holes. There was 1 police car there…DOING NOTHING as they rode all over the grass, close to where people were having picnics and enjoying the day.

  31. brendancalling Says:

    just to clarify, there are two brendans on this thread. I’m the first one -the guy on kingsessing. I don’t know who the other guy is. I will be careful to go by brendancalling from now on, so we don’t get mixed up.

    other brendan, do we know each other (sorry to go OT).

  32. bzfgt Says:

    “Brendancalling”–the police, that is! Narc.

  33. shazoooo! Says:

    lmao! We need MORE narcs.

  34. Johanna Says:

    Can someone clarify whether there is a policy change prompting the blog post from the police? When I’ve called 911 before, they’ve just hung up. Has something changed overall, or is it a blog post from one concerned officer?

  35. shazoooo! Says:

    According to the provided link, it’s coming from the Philadelphia Police blog which is the entire Philadelphia Police Department

  36. Little Says:

    @Brendan “There are things government should provide and there are things that private citizens need to provide themselves. Hell, I wish I could ride a roller coaster home.” Fuck yeah, dude! Where is my goddamned West Philly roller coaster???! What about MY rights? Lullz.

    ATVs, 3-wheelers and 4-wheelers are not road vehicles. PERIOD. NOT FOR CITY STREETS. Ever.

    When we have enough parks for the kids who can be bothered to think of the safety of others and who care about their communities, then we can spend private funds on an ATV track for under-aged unlicensed assholes who don’t give a fuck about endangering others. Sound about right, folks?

  37. Justin Says:

    There are some small jumps and dirt tracks that are used by dirt bikes and ATVs off of Island Ave. near the airport and Fort Mifflin. I doubt it is a legal place to ride, but on the weekends there are lots of kids/teens riding there. It is patrolled often by police because it is near the airport runways, but they don’t seem to bother the kids there. At least it keeps some of the dirt bikes off the streets and away from little children trying to get to the parks or their friends’ houses.

  38. guy Says:

    when skateboarding is a problem in an urban enviroment,you build skateparks………..

  39. Denise Says:

    Last fall we were in Malcolm X park when a bunch of kids started driving their mini-motorcycles through the park–on the crisscrossing sidewalks. They looked REALLY young to me. One stopped and took off his helmet, and an adult started talking to him. I asked the adult how old the kid was.

    The proud father told me that his son, the dirtbike rider, was–get this–EIGHT years old.

  40. Didi Says:

    Just to clarify, I’m not endorsing having a track or park; there was a segment about it a couple Sundays ago on the evening news, and the people they were talking to seemed to be adults.

    There are two separate issues here: first, that city streets are an inappropriate place to use a dirt bike or ATV (for anyone) and second, that some riders are under-aged, unlicensed, or using stolen vehicles.

  41. Peter Hanley Says:

    Here’s my plan. I’m going to wait until the next time I see a couple of these bikes blow by a police cruiser (it won’t be long, I see it fairly often) and then I see the police cruiser do anything in response (this may take a while, I’ve never seen it happen).

    Then I will consider calling ‘911’ when I see people on ATVs.

  42. shazoooo! Says:

    would speed bumps make any difference?

  43. Ruckus Says:

    I bet none of these dumbasses have actually used a dirt bike for its real purpose and how to really ride like us SoCal desert rats:


    I say give them the option when these a-holes are bein stupid and get caught; Take their two-stroke p.o.s. to the impound lot if they can’t ride more than 10 feet in soft sand.

    And for you “riders” out there, if I see you riding on the sidewalk, be prepared to take a WWE style clothes-line to the jugular area. Morons

  44. brendancalling Says:

    @bzgft: I don’t know if you’re kidding or not, but when it comes to someone causing a car accident by reckless disregard for traffic laws, in an area right across the street from a park, I wear that label proudly.

    That poor woman who hit that jackass. I felt terrible for her.

  45. sarah Says:

    I second the comment from Johanna. I live on a street these riders frequent. On a few occasions, after hours of listening to racing ATVs, I have called 911, the operators have told me, “if officers see them, they are stopped,” and hung up on me. The apathy of the 911 operators regarding this issue has caused me to give up hope that the police department cares about this issue.

  46. Miriam Says:

    According to this, the police have a no-pursuit policy, so I don’t understand why they would encourage people to call 911.

    On the other hand, maybe if people called 911 every time we saw one, simply out of spite, the PD would be motivated to do something.

  47. Lou Says:

    Like Lo and Sadie, I’ve had extremely close calls with these jackasses while commuting to/from work in the bike lane. They use the bike lane to pass cars, and it’s terrifying. I’ve seen them fly around sharp curves where they can’t even tell if there’s a bike, car, or pedestrian ahead. It’s shocking to me that these idiots haven’t killed anyone but themselves (yet). These ATVs are just that–All Terrain Vehicles–and they have absolutely no place on city streets.

    And by the way, it is far from just kids without enough recreational alternatives riding these things. I see full-grown men on them (20s, 30s, 40s) ALL the time.

  48. Bill Says:

    If they can build skateparks for skateboarders n bikers to keep them off the street why can’t they make something for the people on dirt bikes and quads

  49. Anon Says:

    Because the liability costs would be outrageous. An Inky reporter mentioned how upstate there’s a racetrack where people can rent to ride and implied the same thing should be done for ATVs and dirt bikes. If the reporter had done a modicum of, you know, actual reporting she would have found out that renting the track costs quite a bit of money because among the ton of people required on staff are EMTs with an ambulance waiting. Pull any of the tricks these guys love to do (wheelies etc.) and you’re immediately kicked out, no refund. Does this sound like 1) a business the city should get into and 2) something these guys would really pay for?

  50. Anonymous Says:


    Come out to support Bill #120725!

    What: Final passage of City Council Bill No. 120725, Amending ATV penalties and granting authority to the Phila. Police Department to Destroy Confiscated ATVs under certain terms and conditions.

    When: 10AM

    Where: City Hall, Room 400

  51. Joe Says:

    My dirtbike was stolen in philly lastnight it was a craigslist set up

  52. justin Says:

    my dirtbike was also stolen it was a setup on cl could you tell me what happened because i will get the bike back do you have the guys number that called about your bike

  53. John F. Doe Says:

    These kids on these dirt bikes need some trainin yo’
    Cuz these Philadelphians be complainin yo

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