Illegal ATVs Go Unpunished in D.C. Due to Police No-Chase Policy

Riders of ATVs and motorbikes are openly breaking the law on D.C. streets, but there’s not much police can do about it.

“The guys do all kinds of tricks in the street,” D.C. resident Mark Rice said. “They got the quads and they’re doing the wheelies and stuff like that.”

Dirt bikes, four-wheelers and other ATVs are illegal in the District, but the drivers know police can’t chase them.

“It is going to end in tragedy one way or the other,” D.C. police union President Kristopher Baumann said. “Unfortunately, we have clear marching orders. We are not going to chase those vehicles.”

In fact, those familiar with the problem say some of the drivers come from other areas on stolen bikes because D.C. is known for its no-chase policy.

“They know can drive with impunity, and so we’ve become a haven for this type of behavior,” Baumann said.

Sunday night, police blocked in a scooter that had been reported stolen. The teen driver was handcuffed but later released. Vehicles like that must be registered, but it only had a personalized tag on the back.

Residents are fed up.

“Our neighbors are almost in unison in calling to complain because no one wants to hear the rumbling of these annoying mopeds and ATVs zooming up and down the street,” said Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kathy Henderson. “They’re basically a nuisance.”

Police said they are frustrated, too, but their hands are tied.

The solution isn't clear. Some fear allowing police to chase could make an already dangerous situation turn deadly.

“I would prefer to have the cops be able to catch them and hope that no one gets hurt in the process,” Rice said.

Baumann said he wants the city to take a close look at its policies, saying the consequences of riding an illegal bike in the city should be severe enough that no one would want to get caught breaking the law.

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