A recent story in the Record-Journal outlined the arrest of four men in Meriden on charges “related to reports of a group of people operating ATVs and dirt bikes recklessly in the city in June.” Police were sent to Broad Street and East Main Street, where 15 to 20 ATVs and dirt bikes were seen in a gas station parking lot. If you can take a moment to imagine what that must have looked like, you get an idea of what’s behind a recent ordinance designed to keep ATVs off city streets.
In other words, this is about more than the occasional ATV rider operating recklessly. Police have asked for help, and the ordinance is a sign of support for police where it really matters.
“These aren't kids, these are adults. It's not that they have nowhere to ride. They enjoy the chaos, they enjoy the fear they put in people, they enjoy just disobeying the law. So if we're given a chance, we're going to seize them and we're going to destroy them.”
That was the observation of Deputy Police Chief Jeremiah Scully at a recent meeting in which the ordinance received approval from a City Council committee. He was talking about people driving ATVs and the plan to destroy vehicles found in violation of the legislation. The ordinance was approved by the City Council, sent to the Public Safety Committee and now goes back to the full council. You can expect its approval at the next council meeting. Scully said similar legislation in New Haven reduced ATV incidents by 30%.
Approval means a set of stiff penalties for violation. Fines climb the money ladder, $1,000 for the first, $2,000 for the third violation or further violations. Vehicles will get seized by police. They will be destroyed.
The getting destroyed part seems extreme, perhaps. So does the idea of destroying them publicly, something noted in the R-J account about the committee vote. Videos on social media will show “the tangible consequences of bad behavior and discourage future activity,” the story relates.
This might strike you as overwhelming, perhaps an overheated response. Yet the strategy is to be preventative rather than punishing. Stiff fines and the loss of the vehicle will persuade someone to think twice, goes the reasoning.
The public the opportunity to weigh in. There had already been one revision, submitted by committee Chairperson Michael Cardona, which makes a distinction for electric bikes and operating ATVs on private property.
But the public is in favor of this plan, with residents “voicing their support for the ordinance and raising environmental concerns caused by the ATVs,” said the R-J.
I haven’t been able to find an argument for keeping ATVs on city streets — other than the chaos and fear incentive described by Scully. ATVs certainly don’t appear to belong on them. If there has to be a law to make that clear, as police are urging, it’s too bad but a good idea. Cardona said he wanted “to commend the police department for bringing forward this resolution.”
Passing the ordinance won’t end the need for public participation. Police will continue to rely on the public when it comes to reporting ATV activity. It’s called teamwork, and it’s a good way of supporting your local police department.
Reach Jeffery Kurz at firstname.lastname@example.org.