The lawlessness in black neighborhoods is beyond belief. No respect for the children crossing the streets or walking on the sidewalks as these motorcycles terrorize the community. We truly loss control.
When he's whipping down Frederick Douglass Boulevard while popping a wheelie on his Spider-Man-themed dirt bike, Benmore knows many people consider him a nuisance.
Residents, who fear accidents and say the noise from sometimes altered mufflers is unbearable, have complained to police about the problem for years.
But Benmore, 31, who asked to be called by his street name out of fear of the police, said it was dirt-bike riding that kept him from slipping into the grip of gangs and drugs as a teen.
"I was once one of those kids back before I got on the bike," he said. "We were into all kind of crime because we had nothing else to do."
Now, he said, he works construction while trying to finish his bachelor's degree at City College. He still rides and tries to use it to keep other people out of trouble.
"The gang members, the shooters and all these people they are trying to stop from shooting each other, these kids love the bikes," said Benmore.
"I'm talking about hardcore gang members, lead gang members. I'm talking about real hardcore brothers looking for a way out."
Whenever the weather gets warm, dozens of young people can be seen zooming around Harlem on illegal dirt bikes and ATV four wheelers. They speed, pop wheelies, zig in and out of traffic, ignore traffic laws — including red lights — and even drive on the sidewalk.
And every year area residents complain about the danger to police and elected officials.
They are worried that the riders will veer out of control and hit pedestrians or cause a motor vehicle accident as happened on April 14 when, according to a witness, a police car, with lights blaring, gave chase to two dirt bikers or ATV riders.
The police car smashed into another vehicle and that car hit a parked car.
In March, a dirt bike hit two girls at 115th and Frederick Douglass Boulevard. The girls were taken to the hospital but not seriously harmed. One of the dirt-bike riders was arrested.
And on April 4 at Columbus Avenue and 96th Street police issued an alert for a dirt bike that hit a police vehicle.
"Everyone is really concerned about safety," said Cator Sparks, president of the 122nd Street Block Association.
"Kids have been on the street playing ball and these guys fly by. It's a horrible situation. Are two children getting hurt what it is going to take to put a plan in motion?"
Despite numerous complaints to police, 311 and local politicians, residents complain that nothing changes.
Stacy Parker Le Melle has a routine all planned out anytime she's pushing her son down the street in his carriage and hears the sounds of dirt bikes in the distance.
"If I'm close to the street I pull back and figure out where they are coming from," she said.
"I'll freeze there until the bikes pass."
That's because Le Melle has seen the mostly young riders driving the wrong way down the street, popping wheelies for several blocks, weaving in and out of traffic and riding up onto the sidewalk.
"The sound always make me feel anxious and frustrated. If worse comes to worse, I'm ready to throw myself in front of a stroller," she said.
According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, dirt bikes are certified for off-road use and are not legal for street use because they do not have the proper equipment such as headlights, brake lights or turn signals.
New York State's DMV web site warns riders they are "subject to arrest" if found on the street with a dirt bike.
Regardless, dozens of videos of the dirt bike riders speeding around Harlem are posted on YouTube. They are seen doing multi-block long wheelies and dodging police, some of which try to block the bikes from passing.
"The bikes are everywhere. They aren't going away," said Jasline, a clerk at Cycle Therapy, a bike shop in East Harlem.
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