Ontario Provincial Police say that they were able to lay dozens of charges against motorcyclists who performed dangerous and coordinated stunts on highways around the GTA because some of the riders recorded the activity with GoPro cameras and then bragged about it on social media.
“Many examples of these illegal activities were captured on video and uploaded to the internet as entertainment. We thank the participants for providing us with this evidence,” Supt. Alison Jevons told reporters Monday.
Jevons said the investigation, dubbed “Project Saddle” spanned from June to September and was sparked by numerous incidents on highways around the city where people reported seeing motorcyclists doing stunts, swarming vehicles, speeding and stopping in live lanes of traffic.
In one particular incident in August, riders performed aggressive moves on a number of highways, police said, including the Gardiner Expressway, The Don Valley Parkway, Highway 403 and Highway 401.
“Dozens of riders on sport bikes actively participated in numerous coordinated stunts that purposefully snarled traffic,” Insp. Scott Naylor said. “Clearly they have put the lives of participants and the safety of other road users and pedestrians in jeopardy.”
Jevons and Naylor said that while identifying the suspects was difficult, it was made possible by reviewing some of the videos that riders posted to social media channels to brag about their stunts.
Naylor added that the videos speak to a trend that needs to be curbed.
“It appears the advent of social media platforms and personal portable high def cameras has fueled this phenomenon,” he said. “The activity obviously has an audience that we need to cut off before the stunts are emulated and repeated and another tragedy occurs.”
He pointed out that some of the activity took place during a period when there had been a high number of motorcycle-involved road fatalities and numerous warnings about motorcycle safety from police.
Police said that while the accused do not appear to be members of outlaw motorcycle gangs, they are organized and sell merchandise such as t-shirts to fuel their activities.
“The same subculture of riders has been known to refuse to stop for police and have swarmed police officers in a threatening manner on several occasions,” Naylor said. “Enough is enough.”
In all, five motorcycles were seized and 48 charges were laid as part of the investigation.
The accused are from Toronto, Vaughan, Mississauga and Brampton.
In particular, police said 10 people are facing a combined 35 criminal charges that include dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, conspiracy to commit the indictable offence of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, mischief, conspiracy to commit the indictable offence of mischief and flight while pursued by a peace officer.
Other charges laid as part of the investigation include driving while suspended, no licence plates, plates not visible, improper helmets, and improper permits and equipment.
Seven of the primary accused have already made court appearances while there are outstanding warrants for three other people.