Mayor faces protest and I-Team over dirt bikes

CLEVELAND -- The FOX 8 I-Team has found protesters taking complaints about dirt bikes in Cleveland directly to the mayor, and the I-Team went to see him with hard questions.

We’ve learned some taxpayers have become so fed up with packs of dirt bikes taking over their streets, they are organizing a protest in front of the home of Mayor Frank Jackson or his State of the City Address.

Many citizens don’t believe the city is doing nearly enough about the problem, especially after last Sunday when dozens and dozens of dirt bike riders ran wild in the streets through the western suburbs and Cleveland.

The I-Team spoke one-on-one with the mayor, and we asked how he could say with any confidence his policies are working? He answered, "The fact that if you look at the entire summer, the number of incidents such as this is down."

The mayor says we’re seeing fewer days when dirt bikes take over the streets.

Still, activists like Michelle McDowell have grown frustrated seeing the highway patrol and other police departments go after dirt bikes more aggressively.

Cleveland Police Department does not allow officers in cars to chase dirt bike riders.

“They’re obviously breaking laws, and as a law-abiding citizen, I expect everyone to follow the same set of rules," McDowell said, "We need to be heard. It’s not OK in our neighborhoods. Not OK in our businesses. You know, it's not OK."

City Hall likes to point out, police have a special unit to go after illegal dirt bikes. Specially trained officers with motorcycles. But the I-Team found, when the dirt bikes took over the streets last weekend, that special unit was nowhere to be found; it was not on duty.

The mayor argues, "The implication that we're doing nothing about it. Or, there's a policy in place that's ineffective, I'm disagreeing with that."

Mayor Jackson says that special police unit has been cracking down on dirt bikes, and the city has passed tougher laws with more penalties for riding in the streets.

City Hall says it is pulling together stats to show what the police have done enforcing laws against illegal dirt bike riders. We’ll pass those along when we get them.

Meantime, the mayor also knows the protesters will, in fact, be coming. But his response to that, simple. He said, "More power to ‘em. It's a free country."

The mayor has talked in the past about spending millions to build a dirt bike track in the hopes of riders would stay off the streets. The mayor says the city is still looking at 2-3 sites, but they could involve buying property and cleaning up property, so plans for the track are still a long-term project.

Also, the city has allowed the Burton Foundation to have dirt bike events at the Muni Lot this summer. Organizers say those events have attracted 80-250 people for each day.

To find out more about the dirt bike protest, click here.

Continuing coverage