NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A group of people riding ATVs and dirt bikes illegally throughout New Orleans tell FOX 8 they are not doing anything wrong - and they even claim they are mentoring kids away from criminal activity.
For several days, a large number of riders took to the interstate and streets of New Orleans, blocking lanes and terrorizing drivers.
On Wednesday FOX 8 reached out to the group NewOrleans_BikeLife, which through Instagram organized the Mardi Gras Bike Out.
Thursday, a group member declined an interview and instead sent a message stating..."GTF off my page!!! Yall m#F#ers trying make look like criminals when people getting shot on Jackson and St. Charles in broad day in the middle of a parade...F# off."
The message from the group member went on to state, "To be completely honest for most kids in urban parts of the city/world it gives them something to look up to other than their neighborhood drug dealer with a nice car...so screw y'all for trying make us look like criminals."
He went on to say that most of the riders are "hard working people," not just "hooligans rampaging the streets."
Whether riders believe they are criminals or not, New Orleans police say they are.
"A violation of the law to the New Orleans Police Department is a violation of the law regardless of the severity of the crime," NOPD Traffic Commander Avery Theard said.
Theard said officers have not engaged illegal ATV and dirt bike riders recently because officers have difficulty responding in time to corral riders, but the main concern is public safety.
"If that pursuit would jeopardize the safety of the public, we have to say would y'all rather us give this person a ticket or would you rather this vehicle travel at 100 mph, slam into someone at an intersection and kill a citizen?" Theard asked. "I know everyone wants fast action, but when we encounter these subjects, we have to take public safety into account."
Theard said while it may seem officers are not cracking down, NOPD is working with other agencies using surveillance and other investigative measures to find a long term solution.
"They are trying to engage with police in order to say here chase me tempt me," Jefferson Parish Interim Sheriff Joe Lopinto said.
Jefferson Parish assisted State Police and NOPD in surveillance of a large group of riders through New Orleans on Tuesday, according to Lopinto.
"Some of them may get away tomorrow, but we end up using whatever intelligence we can gather in order to make arrests later or utilize it for future investigations. That's what we are going to continue to do. If they continue to come into Jefferson Parish, we are going to take enforcement action," Lopinto said.
Jefferson Parish recently arrested three men from Washington D.C. who were riding ATVs illegally in Metairie with a group of 15 people.
Theard said parents are buying their children ATVs and dirt bikes and the children then ride the vehicles illegally either with or without their parents knowledge.