Fla. police seize ATVs, dirt bikes in crackdown on 'Wheels Up, Guns Down' riders
Police seized dozens of ATVs and dirt bikes as part of a crackdown on these riders, who've taken the streets on the MLK holiday for the past five years
Lois K. Solomon
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Rogue riders picked Martin Luther King Jr. Day to speed through traffic, weave in and out of lanes, cruise in packs, stand on their seats, pop wheelies and run red lights.
Authorities on Monday said they seized dozens of ATVs and dirt bikes as part of a crackdown on these riders, who’ve taken to the streets this holiday for the past five years.
They typically converge on Miami-Dade and Broward counties for ride-outs that are known as “wheels up, guns down” events.
Broward sheriff’s deputies arrested 21 people and seized 24 ATVs and dirt bikes over the weekend, spokeswoman Joy Oglesby said. They also arrested 10 people on traffic violations and recovered two guns. Miami-Dade police said they had towed 33 ATVs and dirt bikes and seized four guns. They made 12 arrests but didn’t specify the type of charges faced by those taken into custody.
A 26-year-old ATV rider was critically injured Monday after crashing into a fence in a parking lot in Lauderhill. The rider was taken to a hospital, according to Lauderhill Fire Rescue.
He was not wearing a helmet in the incident and no other vehicle was involved. Police are investigating to see if he was part of a larger group of riders.
It’s illegal to ride an ATV on paved roads, streets or highways. In 2017, two riders died during the weekend.
All-terrain vehicles are not designed for public roads and, generally, do not have proper safety features.
“These bikers are going through red lights and not following traffic laws, which endangers everyone in the public — including themselves,” Lt. Mike Santiago, of the Lauderhill Police, said of the wheels up event.
Just a few days ago, Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony and many other agencies warned riders to not break traffic laws this holiday.
“To those who seek to come out and violate, we’ve provided a warning up front,” Tony said.
Hundreds of law enforcement officers from multiple agencies were out in force on Monday, standing guard at entrance ramps to highways, patrolling neighborhoods and maintaining vigils along the Broward-Miami-Dade border, which the riders were expected to traverse throughout the day.
Detective Javier Duran, riding in a black SUV, patrolled southwest Broward’s roads in search of the outlaw drivers. It had been relatively quiet earlier in the day. “Obviously, we’re deterring them from coming into Broward County,” Duran said.
One teen from Miami, arrested in Miramar on a charge of riding an unauthorized vehicle on a roadway, said the riders’ intention was to take “200 guns off the streets.”
“We’re trying to show there are different things you can do to have fun than go rob somebody,” said the teen, who the South Florida Sun Sentinel isn’t identifying because he’s a minor.
This was the third year the agencies coordinated efforts to enforce traffic laws against the riders. The effort included Miami-Dade police and officers from Davie, Lauderhill, Hallandale Beach, Hollywood, Pembroke Pines, Plantation, Sunrise and Wilton Manors.
©2019 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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