LaGRANGE — You’ve probably seen people on dirt bikes weaving in and out of the city streets, sometimes riding alone – other times riding in packs.
LaGrange Police Department Sgt. Del Armstrong said all those riders have one thing in common: what they are doing is illegal.
“The dirt bikes have no insurance, no claims … there’s really no place for dirt bikes in the city. There’s no place to ride them,” Armstrong said.
They can also be dangerous.
“A lot of the time, these riders don’t have any training,” he said. “If there’s construction or loose gravel, they don’t know how to handle it. Or they run stop signs … they think they’re on a regular bike and can just stop. They don’t remember they’re on a motorized bicycle … when they don’t care is when it gets dangerous.
“A lot of times they also don’t wear any head protection. Riders think it’s a regular bike, but it is a very powerful machine.”
Armstrong admits the “packs” of dirt bike riders in the city have gotten more organized in riding through town. He said a lot of the city’s more problematic areas are on Barnard Avenue and Ragland, Colquitt and Troup streets.
“I saw a group (on some dirt bikes) and I stopped my police car, put my hand up for them to stop, and they just parted around my patrol car like the Red Sea and kept going,” said Armstrong.
The Georgia State Patrol and West Point police faced a similar situation in early April, when a pack of riders on dirt bikes and ATVs took an illegal joyride up Interstate 85. It was captured on cell phone video and showed the riders swarming around other cars on the road and not allowing them to pass, coming to a complete stop at an on ramp to I-85, plus popping wheelies as they continued their ride down the interstate.
Right now, investigators are still in the process of identifying those who participated in the illegal ride, but said all involved will face criminal charges.
Armstrong said LPD officers have also caught a few riders within the city. Now, the 911 calls and problems seem to have died down.
Catching them is not an easy task, though, admitted Armstrong.
“Like any type of cycle, they can go places where officers can’t – like into woods or down side streets, places where our patrol cars can’t get to easily,” he explained. “Lots of folks see them, but then don’t know where they originated from. So tracking them down can be the hard part.”
Armstrong said if drivers spot dirt bikes on city streets, they should call 911. Callers should try to find something distinguishable about the bike itself, like color, or if the rider is wearing a helmet, he noted. If folks also see where the rider(s) are coming from, that will give officers a good starting point on where to find them.
“We try to hold the parents responsible for … allowing them (kids) to ride the bikes. We hold the kids responsible as the drivers. We just want to catch them and hold them accountable,” said Armstrong.