NEW YORK (AP) — Police crushed about 70 motorbikes beneath bulldozers Tuesday to send a signal to thrill-seekers who take dirt bikes and ATVs to city streets: They should be uneasy riders.
The public pulverizing spotlighted a New York Police Department crackdown on renegade riders, often young, unlicensed drivers who zoom and spin through some neighborhoods on bikes that aren't street-legal.
"We want to send out a very strong message to the nitwits and knuckleheads who insist on operating these vehicles on the streets," Police Commissioner William Bratton said Tuesday. They are "creating extraordinary dangers for not only themselves, but for the public."
The confiscated bikes leaned on their sides, like a shelf full of half-fallen books, on the Brooklyn waterfront as two bulldozers rumbled into place on either end of the line.
With the wave of a checkered flag, Bratton sent the bulldozers crawling back and forth over the bikes, flattening them with a thrum of metallic clatters and creaks.
So far this year, more than 679 bikes have been confiscated — 95 percent more than by this time last year — and dozens of drivers have been arrested on such charges as reckless endangerment.
Nearly 80 percent of the confiscated vehicles go unclaimed, Chief of Patrol Carlos Gomez said.
The riders' maneuvers have spurred complaints from residents of some city neighborhoods. But policing the bikers hasn't been without controversy: One rider, 28-year-old Eddie Fernandez, was killed in 2012 when a police cruiser rammed his bike during a chase. Police no longer pursue speeding bikers on the streets, relying instead on surveillance by helicopters and various other tactics, Gomez said.
Police said their crackdown isn't targeting licensed, law-abiding riders.
"It's directed at what we have called 'motorized wilding,' where they just take over the streets, endanger the public and project a sense of lawlessness," Gomez said.
The NYPD usually gets about 2 cents a pound from a salvage yard for the wrecked bikes. An auction wouldn't be worth it, and there's no telling whether the bikes could be outfitted for legal riding, police said.