The New York City Police Department crushed a massive pile of seized dirt bikes at a Brooklyn auto pound Tuesday, pledging to get the vehicles off the roads for good.
Standing before the mound of metal and rubber, Commissioner Keechant Sewell said she wanted to send a clear message to anyone who rides ATVs and dirt bikes, which are illegal to drive on city roadways and sidewalks.
"We will seize that bike and we will destroy it,” she said at a press conference at the Erie Basin Auto Pound. “We take this very seriously, because driving these motorbikes on city streets, on sidewalks or in parks and within housing developments is dangerous, it's reckless and it's illegal."
Sewell said the NYPD will use every tool at its disposal to rid the streets of dirt bikes, which are meant for recreational, off-road use – not for busy urban neighborhoods. Police have reportedly seized about 2,000 ATVs and motorbikes so far this year – almost double the number taken by this time in 2021.
“It is the people living in these communities who are making the majority of complaints,” the commissioner said. “They are telling us loud and clear to get these motorbikes out of our neighborhoods and keep them out. And the NYPD got the message. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Mayor Eric Adams told reporters he's going to ask state lawmakers to tighten the requirements to purchase motorbikes, so that potential buyers will have to show proof of insurance and registration. Otherwise, he said, people who are hurt in crashes could be on the hook for their own medical expenses.
The mayor also emphasized the importance of addressing so-called “quality of life” crimes, like illegal bike riding.
“Quality of life is everything,” he said. “It is our focus to deal with crime and the quality of life aspects, and these dirt bikes were a menace to the quality of life.”
The next phase of the subway safety plan
Tuesday’s announcement is part of Adams’ broader push to restore a sense of security following more than two years of a pandemic, an uptick in violent crimes and a cautious return back to public spaces.
Assuaging fears of the subway has been a main priority for the mayor, especially as several high-profile incidents have stymied his calls for New Yorkers to get back on public transit. Daily ridership surpassed 3 million for the first time since before the pandemic in February but is still lower than pre-pandemic levels.
Adams introduced a subway safety plan earlier this year, which included sending teams of outreach workers and police underground to encourage people experiencing homelessness to seek out services instead of sleeping on the trains. On Tuesday, he shared more details of the next phase of the plan.
The police department will spread transit officers more widely throughout the city’s expansive transportation system, by splitting them up at some stations, instead of having them patrol in pairs. Adams said they will also patrol inside train cars.
The Police Benevolent Association has criticized Adams’ decision to have officers patrol alone, out of concern that it could put police in danger or prompt frustrated officers to leave the department. But the mayor has defended the change and said he was “impressed” by the initial rollout on Monday.
Still, Adams said, it will take more than police to keep the subways secure. His new strategy will also lean on commuters to do their part to stay safe.
The mayor said the city will be launching a campaign with tips for commuters to protect themselves, like riding near a conductor. He also told women to take extra precautions.
"I saw women passengers in isolated areas, standing alone. That is just unsafe,” Adams said. “So, we must play a role of educating passengers how to be partners in safety."
The mayor’s comments have sparked criticism online, particularly from those who say women should not be blamed for the dangers that exist for all subway riders. But Adams told reporters he was merely sharing the lessons he had learned as a transit cop and passenger.
“Don’t live life the way it ought to be,” he said at the press conference. “Live it the way it is until we get it to where it ought to be. Right now, you ought not to be in an unsafe place in the system.”