Stricter penalties for illegal ATV and dirt bike riders is on the horizon in New Haven. Police launched a task force earlier this summer to find illegal riders, and now city is proposing ordinance changes that could hit the pockets of riders swarming the streets.
“It increases fines to $1,000 for the first violation, $1,500 for the second and $2,000 for the third violation,” said New Haven mayor Justin Elicker.
The ordinance goes to the Board of Alders Monday night for review. It specifically adds ATVs to the list of illegal recreational vehicles, and increases the original $99 dollar fine to $1,000, giving officers more leverage.
“If someone doesn’t pay the fine, we have the opportunity to keep the bike. It’s a lot harder to come up with 1,000 dollars than it is with 99 dollars,” says New Haven Police Chief Otoniel Reyes
The fine comes instead of arresting people, but criminal charges would be possible to repeat offenders as well as people who are engaged in reckless and well-documented criminal behavior, officials said. They are hopeful that this will reduce the issues.
For several years, the city has dealt with large groups of riders on ATVs and other illegal vehicles which drive in an out of traffic and cause dangerous situations for other drivers and pedestrians.
Elicker said the new ordinance underscores that it is illegal to operate these types of vehicles on streets or driveways and police will seize them. Owners who allow the illegal use of them will also face penalties.
He said gas stations will be prohibited to selling gasoline from people using these types of vehicles illegally and they would be subject to fines.
Gas stations would get a warning, but could be fined $100 per person. The city has a no-chase policy, so that’s where riders are often caught.
“It’s one of the safer ways to do it,” said Reyes. “They have to dismount and gas up and it gives us an opportunity when we do our operations to sort of move in on them and do so without engaging in pursuits.”
Dealers would also be subject to penalties.
There will also be a hearing process for people whose vehicles are seized.
Reyes said this issue not only impacts New Haven, but people are coming in from other jurisdictions and states.
Police do not engage in pursuits and riders taunt police to pursue, so police have to be creative in how they handle the problem, he added.
Officials said they have seized around 15 to 20 bikes so far this year and this ordinance allows them to issue tickets with a penalty and seize the bike.
“I think it’s about being regional and able to show them ‘hey we’re not going to put up with it in this region, and you can’t just go to West Haven and ride to get away from us,’” said Assistant Police Chief Karl Jacobson.
The mayor adds he’s urging the alders to approve the ordinance amendments, saying the riders often come from out of town.
“If people are choosing a place to go, they’re less likely to choose a place with a $1,000 ticket," said Elicker.
Police still ask for help tracking down ATV and illegal dirt bike riders. Anonymous tips can be sent to ECIC@newhavenct.gov, or by texting NHPD to 274637 (CRIMES).