A man with health issues is surrounded by teens on pedal bikes and knocked down at the Stop & Shop in Shirley. He has trouble getting up and his wallet is taken.
Teens on bikes enter The Home Depot on William Floyd Parkway and ride in groups up and down the aisles.
These two recent incidents represent a long period of reckless and dangerous behavior, residents say, 20-to-30 teens or younger on bikes who intimidate drivers by surrounding their cars, steering towards them head on and
zig sagging in and out of traffic.
The legislation introduced by Patchogue and Bellport village officials last month, that collaborates with Fifth Precinct police in conjunction with the village’s own code enforcement staff to confisgate bikes of reckless teens, making parents pay fines before their child’s bike is returned, has galvanized the Mastic, Moriches, Shirley communities.
They’re asking “what about us?”
Community meeting cancelled
A community meeting scheduled March 12 at the Mastic-Moriches-Shirley Library to address this lawlessness in these hamlets as well as on Center Moriches streets was cancelled because of the corona virus pandemic.
Beth Wahl, president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mastics and Shirley Inc. and president of the William Floyd Summit, who sent out meeting notices to its 80 business owners, said the meeting would be rescheduled.
“A bunch of teens on bikes went after this guy,” she said of the Stop & Shop incident that took place Feb. 19. “It ended with someone taking his wallet and they were all laughing. Some were 10 year olds and junior high students. It’s just craziness.”
As a chamber president, Wahl is worried.
“When it starts affecting our businesses, that’s a serious thing,” she continued. “When you have a group of kids attacking people outside a grocery store, people don’t want to come in.”
Ride outs posted on YouTube
The Stop & Shop and Home Depot incidents along with others were posted on YouTube videos that went viral with the bike teens bragging about their ride outs on social media. They’re seen on the William Floyd school district campus, at the South Port Shopping Center, on local Mastic streets. One is filmed at a Coram diner.
“I’m in Mastic. I’m holding two cameras. You know how many guys (who were driving cars) said they were going to smack us,” crowed one teen.
“This is going to end badly,” said Wahl, who has witnessed the videos.
Issue prevalent for three years
Toni Trapani, who heads up the Tri-Hamlet South Neighborhood Watch Group and organized the library meeting, said her group formed three years ago in July to address quality of life issues in Mastic Beach.
It was also three years ago that the bike incidents first cropped up, she said, but with younger kids and on a smaller scale.
“It was little groups when they started on Mastic Road, riding their bikes in the middle of the road, cutting across the road and driving towards the cars,” she said.
Trapani said the kids are now older and the bike cluster has grown.
“Their bad actions have had zero consequences, so they’re emboldened now,” she said. “And now there was an assault outside a local Stop & Shop. There are lots of video footage of them tearing through The Home Depot, that happened a couple of months ago, damaging a stop sign at a shopping center in Centereach, acting out in the (Brookhaven Skate Park on Mastic Beach Road) and the inaction taken against them has emboldened them into an absolute frenzy, with them also screaming and cursing. They’re the same bikes, the bikes are distinctive, and the same kids and they ride en masse on Montauk and William Floyd Highways and other main roads.”
Trapani said her watchdog group has faithfully attended 7thPrecinct community police meetings, bringing up this issue every month since it was formed. Both Trapani and Wahl cited Legis. Rudy Sunderman and his office for their helpfulness. “Without their assistance, we would have gotten nowhere,” Trapani said. “The police are better now than three years ago and are trying to do something.”
Her group monitors the YouTube videos and shares them.
“We tell (the police) where they live, where they store the bikes,” she said. The bikes, she said, cost $1,000. “And the kids under 14 don’t wear helmets.”
Sunderman said as soon as the corona virus was maintained and controlled, attention would be given to the issue.
“This is a quality of life issue and it has to be addressed and it will be back on the table with a discussion with the civics and the residents,” he said. “ We have to make sure we get back to dealing with that at large. I think right now the health and safety of our residents has taken priority and social distancing. We’re working with the schools, police and civic groups to make sure we address this matter whether it’s at Stop & Shop and the roads.”
Reaching out to Bellport mayor
Trapani reached out to Bellport mayor Ray Fell after reading the Advance article on Bellport and Patchogue’s dangerous bike riding legislation in collaboration with the Fifth Precinct and the agreement to confisgate their bikes; parents would have to appear at village court and pay a fine for the bikes to be returned for those under 18.
“The (7thPrecinct) police and the school district are finally working together and many of the children on the video have been identified and punishments/suspensions have been handed out by the schools and a few will face criminal charges,” Trapani wrote in an email to Mayor Fell.
Police and William Floyd update
“In my latest update yesterday afternoon (Friday, March 13) with the police officer I deal with, one child has indeed faced a charge, the officer told me it was up to the county if the case was heard in district or county court, depending on his age,” she told the Advanceon Saturday.
The William Floyd school district had been cooperating and Wahl said William Floyd high school principal Philip Scotto had four policemen in his office and was showing the video of the Stop & Shop incident when another was forwarded regarding the Home Depot incident.
Trapani said another young man has been singled out from the Longwood School District.
When the Advance contacted the William Floyd School District, spokesman James Montalto issued this statement. “We believe that bike riders in any neighborhood who are disrupting the flow of traffic and endangering themselves and others is a matter for the police to handle. The district works cooperatively with the 7thPrecinct on a variety of matters and provides assistance when called upon any way we can. If any children have been identified on video as district students, we have reached out directly to parents to notify them of their child’s behavior.”
“Our local precinct commander is a very nice man with years of police enforcement but there are still issues that need to be addressed,” Trapani said. “With some of these kids, the police say they are too young to do anything, or they can’t chase them, but we have Family Court. If you can’t do anything because they’re too young or there’s nosupervisionat the home, these kids will continue with this behavior.I know from years working ina law office there are things that can be done. The assault opened more people’s eyes.”
Requests for comment from Suffolk police were unreturned at press time.
On Sunday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone ordered all Suffolk schools closed for two weeks starting Monday March 16 through Friday, March 27.
Which means young people will be home, some looking for trouble.
Wahl, Trapani and others agree that it’s timefor the county and town to pass laws and procedures to protect innocent drivers as well as the kids from a bad result. “But you have to enforce it,” Trapani said. “Confisgate the bikes and let the parents pay the fines.”