Illegal ATVs on Providence Streets Draw Rebuke from Residents, Leaders

Tuesday, July 25, 2017
GoLocalProv News Team and Kate Nagle

Videos showing ATVs on city and state roads have drawn strong reaction by Providence residents.
Videos unveiled by GoLocalProv showing ATVs illegally operating both on Providence and Rhode Island state roads have drawn strong reaction from the community, after two Providence police sources told GoLocal they were instructed not to actively pursue ATV vehicles, despite city ordinance outlawing them.

"The illegal operation of these vehicles on highways and local roadways poses a tremendous public safety hazard for the operators, as well as for every other motorist on the road," said State Police Colonel Ann Assumpico on Monday. "If troopers spot illegal or unauthorized vehicles on the roadways, they will make every effort to apprehend and prosecute the operators." 

READ: Full State Police Reaction HERE

In May 2017, the City Council approved an ordinance allowing police to seize and potentially destroy ATVs stopped on city streets, after a weaker 2015 ordinance. 

Last week, an East Side mother said she was terrorized by a motorbike gang that contained ATVS; the City Council has since called for a special task force address ways to effectively target the issue including a tip line for residents. 

"Mayor [Elorza] needs to enforce the law," said State Representative and former Interim Mayor and Council President John Lombardi. "It's a little embarrassing that the State Police was so forthcoming in their policy to enforce it. It's been identified as a problem, and it needs to be enforced."

Defending Action

City Councilman Michael Correia spoke to what he sees as the role of the Providence Police -- and spoke to the city's "no-chase" policy. 

"In no way have [the police] been instructed not to be enforce the ATV policy," said Correia. "I've been told that since the council has enacted the stricter policies -- there have been well over 50 have been taken off the road and are awaiting forfeiture hearings."

Correia spoke to what he said the "no-chase" policy of the Providence police  -- and how they can be successful in its absence. 

Confiscated ATVs. Source: Cyd McKenna
"The officers within my district are out and they monitor [ATVs]. There is a no-chase policy, I don't want anyone at risk," said Correia. "The apprehending is made possible by individuals within the community. They contact the police with a location of where [the ATVs] are coming out of, they monitor that location, as soon as they pull out of a garage, they turn around and tow the vehicle. They take it down [to] DPW, and we wait for a hearing."

"We get [ATVs] in gas stations, they don't run on fuel forever," said Correia. "So when they pull into a gas station, [the police] pull right in there and confiscate the bikes."

City Council Chief of Staff Cyd McKenna further clarified the city's position on Monday.

"The ordinance allows PPD to seize ATVs and dirt bikes regulated by the DEM- specifically off road vehicles that are illegal on city streets. Seizing motorcycles and those 3 wheeled spider things that are registered through the DMV is not covered by ordinance - that process is entirely different, more like impounding a car and has a higher standard," said McKenna. 

"The confusion may have come into play this weekend when command staff relayed that officers cannot seize the [latter] vehicles. It seems some may have confused that for a mandate to not seize any vehicles, which is inaccurate and they (command staff) have since made sure the directive was clear," said McKenna.

"To date, PPD have impounded several illegal off road vehicles - here's a picture. Also, they have deployed a task force that is in its infancy stages and will soon include a tip line where constituents will be able to leave anonymous messages as to the whereabouts of off illegal road vehicles," said McKenna. "Additionally, the council is looking at further avenues in terms of ordinances to curb the illegal use of off road vehicles on city streets."

Addressing ATVs

"I see them on Broad Street and on Elmwood Ave regularly (mostly weekends.) I live on a side street between the two.  By the time you try to call PPD and have them come out, the ATVs are long gone," said Providence resident Carol DeFeciani. 

"I see them popping wheelies on Elmwood heading South. In general there's a major speeding problem on Elmwood. At one point a few years back the State Police where setting up speed traps (the motorcycle Staties) but I haven't seen them (the SP) doing this in a very long time," said DeFeciani. "Since Elmwood Ave is Rt. 1, I believe it's under the jurisdiction of the State Police. Broad St. is PPD territory."

"I do think chasing is not a good idea," said DeFeciani. "They should set up road traps where the ATVs would have to stop."

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