Highlighting their efforts to crack down on people driving off-road vehicles in the city’s streets, Boston police say the number of ATVs and dirt bikes they’ve seized so far this year is outpacing last year.
The announcement comes as Boston officials promote their summer plans for public safety, which they say will focus on violence prevention during a time of the year that often has more reports of street violence and 911 calls.
Speaking of what she called “revelers” on the off-road vehicles, Boston Police Deputy Superintendent Pam Harris said, “They’re operating in a reckless manner, wreaking havoc in our communities.”
As of May, at least 92 ATVs and dirt bikes have been taken by police this year, compared to 133 total in 2022, according to numbers the department provided during a Thursday press conference about the summer plans.
The groups of people who fly through the streets on off-road vehicles such as dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles, are one example of a quality-of-life issue that can escalate into violence or other problems, Harris said.
The issue moved to the fore during the tumultuous summer of 2020, when the city was shut down at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and racial-justice protests flooded the streets. Simultaneously, the noise from fireworks and ATVs caused noise complaints all night long.
Over the past two years, the riders were back in full force, drawing more complaints from neighbors and a call for tougher enforcement from city officials.
The Boston Police Department touted a bust earlier this year in Roslindale, where they said they seized 37 off-road vehicles, plus some drugs and guns.
Harris said 90 percent of the vehicles are stolen, and many of the rest are registered to family members or friends. They’re illegal to use on city roads, so the city tries to make seizures — because people can only get them back if they prove ownership.
“What we need is the public’s help — we need to be informed,” Harris said, adding that the department doesn’t chase these groups, but looks to engage them when they’re dismounted. “If you discover that these vehicles are being stored anywhere, let us know.”
Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox and Mayor Michelle Wu on Thursday rolled out some highlights of their summer public safety plan, which they said focused on quashing beefs before they escalate, connecting people with services, and taking a targeted approach to enforcement.
“The important subject is really making sure we address the right people at the right time,” Cox said.
Wu said it’s important for the city to promote “fun, healthy, and safe” gatherings for people of all ages, and she touted the summer jobs program aimed at keeping the city’s youth occupied and earning money.
Cox stressed that this remains a safe city, one that’s bucked national trends. The city has seen 53 shootings so far this year, compared to 56 this time in 2022. But fatal shootings are up, from five to 14.
“We have a lot to do to make sure these numbers don’t rise,” Cox said.
Sean Cotter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow him on Twitter @cotterreporter.