Dirt Bike Outlaws Rip Off Out-Of-State Victims, Adding Vehicles To Streets

Dirt bike and ATV riders on a Cleveland street.
Dirt bikes and ATVs on Cleveland city streets have been a long simmering problem in the city. [Annie Wu / Ideastream Public Media]

Three people were lured to Cleveland from out of state last weekend to sell their dirt bikes or ATV's, which were then stolen, the latest in a string of such thefts, according to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley.

It's adding more vehicles to to the city's years long problem with the vehicles clogging city streets, disrupting traffic and causing chaos.

"The alleged purchasers offered them more money to deliver the bikes and what inevitably happens is that they give them an envelope, often times with counterfeit money," O'Malley said,  adding that suspects sometimes ask to take the bikes for a test drive and don't return.

At least 90 of these thefts have occurred since January 2020 with 83 of them originating with online communication through Facebook Marketplace, according to the prosecutor's office.

"You have to be wary on social media of not just Facebook Marketplace, of any place, and it's critical and that's what we're trying to do today, is to educate the public that you have to make the determination of where it is safe for you to sell your dirtbikes," O'Malley said. "You need to set the stage for where you're going to do a transfer of your merchandise. Do not take more money to deliver it. You control the location."

Twenty-five bikes have been stolen in this way in the area of Glazier and Broadway avenues and O'Malley believes many of the stolen bikes are being used to disrupt traffic and commit other crimes in the area. 

Dirt bike/ATV theft graphic

[Office of the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor]

"It's destroying the quality of life that people can't safely traverse down Kinsman or down Lee or down Broadway or down Denison or down Clark," O'Malley said. "As we saw several weeks ago, they're going into Cleveland Heights. We saw last Summer, they drove into Fairview, they drove into Bay Village, so this is an issue that continues to grow."

O'Malley pushed back against the notion that he's more concerned about out-of-state victims than Clevelanders, saying friends are moving out of the city due to the constant noise and disruption.

"Nobody is attempting to bring this problem under control," O'Malley said. "So, do I care about it? Hell yeah, I care about it. But I can't control the Cleveland Police Department.

O'Malley also hopes new leadership in the Mayor's office in 2022 will help, as Mayor Frank Jackson is not seeking reelection.

"I've never seen a written order, but coming from individuals within the department, I have been told there has been a direction not to attempt to apprehend these individuals. So does that mean they (police) sit on the sidelines?" O'Malley said.

"We see them downtown here. I've seen them going down West 6th, I've seen them going down West 3rd, in the middle of the day," O'Malley said. "I mean...if police aren't directed to engage them and put a stop to it, it's never going to end and I can tell you it will only continue to get worse."

O'Malley says he's reached out to federal law enforcement for help.

"Thirty-three of them are crossing state lines, they're using telecommunications equipment to conduct these, in effect, robberies," O'Malley said. "So ... there is a federal nexus where we hope our federal law enforcement partners will join the effort."

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