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CPD watching motorcycle group 'joyrides,' but enforcement resources stretched thin

Posted at 5:28 PM, Jun 09, 2020

CINCINNATI — With as much that has changed about everyday life -- amid a pandemic and unparalleled protests against police brutality -- one thing has remained somewhat constant for Downtown resident Greg Burkett over the last year.

"Mostly on the weekends, but sometimes during the week, we’ll get large groups of motorcycles, some four-wheelers, that will gather down here underneath this bridge, the (Taylor) Southgate (B)ridge," Burkett told WCPO. "(They'll) spend some time down here revving their engines to the point of, where we live, we can’t hear our TV even with the sliding glass door closed."

Greg Burkett

Burkett said sometimes he'll even see the group of motorcyclists speed and weave through traffic across the bridge into Newport, Kentucky.

"Eventually, they’ll start to break off, and they’ll drive around and get on the Southgate bridge and speed across the bridge at high rates of speed, sometimes doing wheelies," he said. "If there’s traffic on the bridge, sometimes we can see them cutting in and out of traffic, and then they’ll circle around and come back or start driving around other parts of the city."

They'll even drive through crowds of walking people, Burkett said.

"Last Saturday when we were down here, we were just down here sitting," he said. "We counted five motorcycles drive along the Serpentine Wall through groups of people, children and adults, that were either walking or riding their bikes or standing there."

Cincinnati Police Lt. Steve Saunders said it's an issue his department has been monitoring in multiple neighborhoods -- including Mount Auburn and Walnut Hills, in addition to Downtown and The Banks. But he also said it can be difficult to intervene because doing so would require an officer witnessing reckless behavior.

Cincinnati Police Lt. Steve Saunders speaks with WCPO about persistent reports of reckless driving by motorcycle groups, June 9, 2020.

"We can’t, in law enforcement, stop people from congregating in the road if they’re parked to the side. We can only engage and intercede if there’s actually hazardous driving, reckless driving," Saunders told WCPO.

But he also encouraged residents who think they witnessed reckless driving to call police.

Engine revving poses a particular challenge for enforcement, Saunders said. "The revving of the engines... I know it drives people crazy, extremely difficult if not impossible to enforce that. You’d have to have a decibel meter and have all these measurements to determine if that’s causing a problem."

Recent demonstrations in protest against the death of George Floyd and police brutality throughout the city have also taxed CPD's resources, Saunders said. Hundreds of officers logged overtime over the last week-and-a-half as large crowds of protesters marched through city streets in the hours leading up to Mayor John Cranley's recent curfews.

"As we go back to somewhat normal operations, we would definitely want to respond to these issues if people would call and let us know,” Saunders said.

In the meantime, Beckett wishes the motorcyclists would find a less central place to gather and group-ride, "where there isn’t a high population, to do their joyriding. I’m not against that at all if they want to do it, but it’s dangerous here.”