New York City rounding up illegal bikes and crushing them

New York City rounding up illegal bikes and crushing them

Posted by Ben Baker on Apr 6th 2016

Riding dirt bikes, ATVs and some two-wheelers in the City of New York is illegal. The city is stepping up enforcement efforts by taking illegal rides and crushing them.

We have significant resources out looking to get these characters, these knuckleheads if you will," said NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. "We intend to take all of these things [bikes] and just crush them."

Bratton held a press conference to discuss the plan to turn seized rides into chunks of metal. During the conference, he called the people who ride illegally in the city “clowns” and “nitwits.”

Dirt bike riders are especially as seen as a growing threat in The City that Never Sleeps. In 2013, a family traveling on West Side Highway was harassed by a group of riders on street-illegal rides in NYC. That was apparently a turning point as law enforcement starting an increased campaign to get the riders and rides off the streets.

Since the beginning of the year, the NYPD has made many arrests and seized more than 300 bikes. Since announcing the crush campaign, more than 60 have been seized. No date has been announced for the crush, but the NYPD promises to invite the media.

Is this legal? Seizing the bikes is. Federal law allows property used in illegal activity to be held by police. An NPR report, “Police Can Seize And Sell Assets Even When The Owner Broke No Law” takes a hard look at this. “The practice is called civil asset forfeiture, and every year it brings cities millions of dollars in revenue, which often goes directly to the police budget. Police confiscate cars, jewelry, cash and homes they think are connected to crime. But the people these things belong to may have done nothing wrong,”

To keep the bikes, the city still has to run through due process. Typically this amounts to publishing a notice of seizure and having a hearing. The NPR story explains it this way: “The concept is that police are, in theory, bringing charges against the property. They are saying this property is being used in the furtherance of a crime. That's why, Edwards (Ezekiel Edwards, director of the criminal law reform project at the ACLU) says, the cases are titled U.S. v. $4,000. Or U.S. v. White Cadillac.”

But is crushing the bikes legal? Once the city gets ownership, yes.

Could the city sell the bikes? Yes. However, a command decision was made to make a much more permanent statement.

NPYD Police Commissioner Bratton did something similar when he was in LA in the early 2000s. That west coast city was having a problem with drag racers. "It killed [those drivers] to see their cars out there in the desert," he said. "We'd lift them up with a crane 100 feet off the ground and drop them."

Riding dirt bikes on public roads, unless the bike is made street legal with a tag and appropriate lights, is generally illegal.

The NPYD maintains a list of street-illegal rides for the city.