HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — Community members and the Hagerstown Police Department can’t ignore an ongoing issue in downtown Hagerstown. Dirt bikes and other off-road vehicles have been driving recklessly through the streets, even on sidewalks, and the ongoing issue is not sitting well with community members.
Hagerstown resident, James Stoddard, has heard and seen the off-road vehicles speeding and weaving in between cars. He says it’s not just unsafe for people in cars, but the riders as well.
“I think it’s very unsafe. I mean, you have people walking, people driving their cars [and the riders] getting them to accidents or potential accidents,” Stoddard said.
Stoddard also believes that providing more riding trails or other locations to safely ride the off-road vehicles will likely not solve the problem as he says the riders “are gonna do it simply because it is against the law.”
The Hagerstown Police Department says the off-road vehicles in the city have been an issue for the last few years and they’re working to curb the issue by reviewing traffic camera footage around the city. Spokeswoman and Baker Platoon Commander Lt. Rebecca Fetchu explained that while the off-road vehicles are a nuisance, the riders are committing a simple traffic violation. She also says many of the riders are uninsured, meaning that if they hit a person or a car, the victim will have to pay the damages or bills.
“So even if we can get them identified, it’s a traffic violation and citation and nothing more. What the public doesn’t see is what we’re doing behind the scenes, which is looking at surveillance footage because we have many cameras here in the city,” Lt. Fetchu explained. “So we take a look at that and try to identify people and then get them cited and in some occasions, we have been able to confiscate bikes away.”
Lt. Fetchu highlighted that the most obvious solution of conducting a traffic stop is not as simple as it seems. She says the department is actively working to identify and remove the illegal vehicles from the streets but is running into roadblocks.
“We can try to stop them and we do try to do that. However, the likelihood of these riders stopping for us is slim to none,” Lt. Fetchu said. “Part of the problem that we’re facing is it seems like for everyone we were able to take off the street another one or two pops up,”
Some residents downtown say they’re concerned for their safety. Skyler Puffinberger has also witnessed the vehicles driving recklessly through downtown but was stunned to see a child on one of the off-road vehicles.
“I just think they need to be more safe because on the streets there’s parents with their kids and I think that that’s just wrong of them to start speeding by,” Puffinberger said.
Lt. Fetchu also told WDVM that the Hagerstown Police Department does not and will not use traffic spikes to try and stop these riders because they don’t want to put them at any risk. But she urged residents who hear or see the riders to call the Hagerstown Police Non-Emergency number at 301-739-8577 or send a message to the crime tip email at firstname.lastname@example.org.