“On my way in here I finally got a ticket,” Ron Muir, a motorcycle enthusiast, said last Saturday as he leaned on the service counter of the store he runs in Old Town Temecula. He shook the piece of paper in front of him.
To Muir, the ticket was proof of a problem he had only suspected before. The Temecula police are targeting local motorcycle riders, he stated with renewed confidence.
The ticket came as if on cue. He had contacted the Valley News only a few days before about some concerns he had for his fellow motorcycle riders.
Muir owns a motorcycle gear shop in Old Town Temecula, he explained in an e-mail last week, and since last month his customers have been complaining of getting excessive tickets.
“They say, ‘No, you’re breaking the noise ordinance.’ They don’t have any decibel meters,” he said of the ticketing officers.
The Temecula Police Department stepped up enforcement in Old Town last month, said Capt. Jerry Williams, the Chief of Police for the City of Temecula.
“I got some complaints from some Old Town merchants,” he said. “When [motorcycle riders] come through there with excessively loud pipes we will put a few officers down there.”
He redirected two units – which usually patrol other parts of Temecula – to Old Town for three weekends in September, he said. The officers issued 60 citations, which was “a lot,” according to Williams.
Temporary increased enforcement falls short of a crackdown, he said.
“I ride a Harley myself. Most of my officers ride bikes,” he said at a City Council meeting during a discussion of the police department’s activities. “It’s a misconception about the whole thing.”
This month, the number of officers patrolling Old Town has returned to normal, he said.
Nonetheless, some motorcycle enthusiasts speculate the increased attention is part of a larger goal of making Temecula a quieter place.
“It sounds to me like [the local police] are cracking down on bikers,” said Ken Rauton, the owner of Swing Inn in Old Town.
Rauton rarely hears his motorcycle-riding clients complain about getting tickets in the area, he said. Then, in the middle of last month, all his clients started complaining about getting tickets, he said.
He thought little of the complaining until he noticed the police were ticketing people regularly outside his business, he said.
“You hear a siren going and they got a bike. You hear another siren and they got another bike,” he recalled.
Some motorcycle riders said Temecula is a choice destination for them and their fellow enthusiasts.
“This is what Old Town Temecula is all about: sitting here at Mad Madeline’s, enjoying a wonderful cup of lemonade and looking at the cars drive by. We love it,” said Mirna Arenas, a motorcycle rider who came to see the Rod Run last Saturday.
Nearly 100 motorcycles sat scattered in various parking lots in Old Town Temecula that night.
Though Old Town still appears to be a popular watering hole for motorcycle riders, increased enforcement could change that.
When “Temecula” is entered into the search window of www.hdforums.com, a national Harley Davidson online forum, dozens of messages appear. Some of them warn their hog-riding comrades to steer clear of Temecula.
“Boycott Temecula, California!” one message reads.
The anonymous author of the message, going under the name “ElSexton,” complained of getting a ticket in Old Town for having a loud custom exhaust system.
“That’s the number one thing you get a ticket on,” said Mike Shelhart, a business owner in Murrieta catering to motorcycle riders. He, too, has been hearing complaints from his clients recently of the police in Old Town. His clients have been getting ticketed heavily for making too much noise, he said.
At first, Shelhart recalled, he paid little attention to the complaints. Then last month, he was strolling through Old Town when he saw police loading motorcycles onto a flatbed trailer in the parking lot of The Stampede.
Last October, the city passed an ordinance limiting the noise people are aloud to make in their homes. The ordinance, however, fell short of regulating vehicle noise.
Vehicle noise is already regulated by the state’s vehicle code, Mayor Pro-Tem Maryann Edwards said at the time of the ordinance’s passage.
Muir voiced his concerns to the City Council during a meeting last Tuesday. “A lot [of bikers] are afraid to come down here [to Temecula]…they think they’re not welcome,” he said.
“People need to comply with the law,” said Mayor Mike Nagger at the meeting. “Everyone is welcome who complies with the law.”
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