BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A frightening scene in Northwest Baltimore. City police in riot gear face off with a large crowd of people gathering to watch illegal dirt bikes.
Derek Valcourt has more on a problem the city struggles to get a handle on.
Dirt bikers and the people who come to watch them take over a stretch of Reisterstown Road almost every Sunday all summer long. This time, the crowd was bigger, and their behavior triggered a different response from police.
City police in riot gear order a crowd of hundreds watching and participating in illegal dirt biking to leave the area of Reisterstown Road near Druid Hill Park.
Police were first called there after one dirt bike accident triggered fights in the crowd.
“For some unknown reason, individuals from the crowd began to pelt the officers with rocks,” said Maj. Marc Partee, Northwest District Police Commander.
Backup arrived in SWAT gear and helped disperse the crowd, but not before a photographer snapped a photo of one officer pointing his gun. That officer is now under investigation.
Just a few hours later, after police left, WJZ found dozens of dirt bikers and their supporters back out in the same spot.
Illegal dirt biking has long plagued city police, whose policy is not to chase the bikers who often drive dangerously and ride at night with no lights, making them difficult for other drivers to see.
Some neighbors complain; others don’t mind.
“They’re not pulling out their guns trying to hurt each other or nothing. They’re just trying to ride their bikes and have fun,” one man said.
“This is Baltimore City’s culture,” said City Councilman Nick Mosby.
Mosby represents the district. He says until there’s a special park or track just for dirt bikers, police are facing an unfair, uphill battle.
“We can continue to act as if it’s not a problem. We can continue to sit back and just kind of do the fluctuating enforcement that we’ve been doing that’s not really driving any real results, or we can try to develop a sustainable solution,” said Mosby.
“We don’t want a catch 22 for the police department,” said Sen. Catherine Pugh.
State Senator Pugh also represents the district and hears the dirt bike complaints.
“Until there is a solution for the disrespecting the neighborhood, disrespecting the community folk who live here, I think it is just not acceptable,” she said.
Police say they made no arrests Sunday night and only confiscated one dirt bike.
As for the officer seen pointing a gun at the crowd, he has been placed on administrative duties pending the outcome of an investigation.
Police believe many of the dirt bikes are stolen and urge anyone who spots them to call police.