RVA 5×5: Heard the Noise, Seen The Light

by Jon Baliles

Well, it seems Mayor Levar Stoney has finally picked up on a problem on Richmond’s streets that many of us have known about for three-plus years. If you live downtown, or in the Fan, Oregon Hill, Jackson Ward, the Museum District, Randolph, Scott’s Addition, Byrd Park, Malvern Gardens, parts of Northside, Monroe Ward, or several other neighborhoods, the sound of jet-like roaring from annoying packs of motorcycles has permeated the air at night (usually on weekends) in a way that would wake Rip Van Winkle with ease.

And for three-plus years, nothing has been done. I have talked to those in public safety who have been told for years that these insanely loud gatherings of cyclists, noisemakers, and idiots — whatever you want to call them — are off limits for stopping or arresting, even if they gather by the dozens (even during the day) and violate the city’s un-enforced noise ordinance or dozens of traffic laws in and around Bryan Park, Byrd Park, or on Broad Street.

But this past Thursday afternoon, several noisy riders caught the mayor’s attention in Shockoe Bottom. He not only called the police chief to track them with an airplane, but he also later made sure that all the local media outlets (all three TV stations and the Times-Dispatch) knew about it. The result was three young men from the Tri-Cities area were arrested (ages 19, 18, 17), one stolen gun was recovered, and one teen escaped.

Jon Burkett from CBS6 reported that the mayor called the chief after witnessing the youths causing consternation in Shockoe Bottom on Thursday evening.

“Obviously every situation is different. Yesterday’s events started with Mayor Stoney notifying me that he saw them in the Shockoe Bottom heading westbound,” Interim Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards said of the Thursday evening situation. “After the first attempt to pull these individuals over with our lights and sirens, they refused. So we backed off. Turned the lights off and let the airplane do it at a safe distance.”

The police later reported that, “The bike operators were driving unlawfully, traveling the wrong way down one-way streets and against the flow of traffic on Richmond Highway and Belvidere Street. The bike operators were also driving recklessly on sidewalks, through yards of private properties, and failing to stop at stop signs and traffic lights.”

With the help of the regional Metro Aviation Unit, Chesterfield Police, and Virginia State Police, the riders were tracked and followed through Chesterfield County via Chippenham Parkway without incident.

Delaney Murray at WRIC also reported that at the same time the mayor called the chief, “police were beginning to see several calls about reckless driving by dirt bikers throughout Richmond.”

Good effort by the Mayor for reporting it, and good work by the chief and the police for monitoring, following, and resolving the situation with assistance and patience. For those of us in any of the above-listed and other neighborhoods, we have quit calling the police about these noisemakers because by the time the report gets to the police, they are long gone and keep on moving.

It’s good to know the mayor has finally come around to the same concern about the danger that all of the other neighborhoods have been dealing with since the pandemic; perhaps now that he has seen it and understands it, something actually can be (and hopefully will be) done to minimize or eliminate it. Riding dirt bikes is one thing — riding them on sidewalks, going the wrong way on streets, riding through people’s yards, and ignoring traffic signals with impunity is something else entirely.

Maybe the mayor will see this not just as a media opportunity, but a real effort to finally allow the police to enforce the law on streets (see Story #5) and prevent our streets, sidewalks, front yards and neighborhoods from becoming a backdrop for the next filming of The Road Warrior.

Jon Baliles is a former Richmond City Councilman. This is an excerpt from the original article posted on his blog, RVA 5×5. It is posted here with permission.