COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus officials are already seeing an increase of reported illegal ATV and dirt bike use with the return of warm weather.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and Police Chief Elaine Bryant outlined a new plan to address that increase on Tuesday.
'Operation Wheels Down' will consist of efforts to combat what officials have deemed "reckless" and "unsafe" ATV use throughout the city, simultaneously working to keep repeat offenders off the streets, according to Bryant.
"Unfortunately we are seeing an increase in these calls as this activity tends to coincide with warmer weather in Columbus," said Ginther. "This kind of behavior is unacceptable and it must stop."
Ginther said the issue is plaguing neighborhoods throughout the city and not just one specific area.
Harry Baucom lives in Old Oaks, between Mooberry Street and East Livingston Avenue, and said his neighborhood is not immune to the reckless driving.
"Groups of ATVs and dirt bikes without tags and mufflers have turned the streets into a raceway," said Baucom. "The noise is just terrible."
Ginther said an update community noise ordinance will be submitted to Columbus City Council members in the coming weeks that will prohibit "unreasonably loud" noise. The proposed ordinance also increases penalties for repeat offenders.
Columbus Attorney Zach Klein added his office will continue to partner with the Columbus Division of Police to identify offenders and confiscate their bike or ATV until that person can stand trial.
Klein said the issue goes beyond being a public nuisance; it's also a public safety threat to community members.
Under 'Operation Wheels Down,' drivers who are caught will be subject to a fine of minimum $500 to $1,000. Additionally, the offender's bike or ATV will be impounded and the driver could face 30 days in jail.
While recklessly driving ATVs and dirt bikes on city streets is illegal, Columbus police have said tracking down drivers can be difficult due to policy that does now allow officers to pursue them in most cases.
Ultimately, Ginther said the city needs residents to report the incidents as they occur.
"We cannot do this without the community's help and engagement," said Ginther.
Columbus police depend on people to send in photos and videos to catch people illegally riding ATVs and dirtbikes. To send anonymously send photos and videos to Columbus police, you can email them here.
You can watch Tuesday's briefing in the player below: