Want Your Dirt Bike Back? Talk To A Cop
by Thomas MacMillan | Oct 17, 2012 11:41 am
Posted to: Transportation
Busted dirt bikers will face a higher hurdle to getting their wheels back after the cops take them, thanks to a new policy.
Lt. Jeff Hoffman this week informed neighborhood-level cops this week of the new tactic aimed at cracking down on New Haven’s dirt bike menace.
When people are caught riding the bikes illegally on city streets, the bikes will be towed. The owners will have to prove to a cop—not just to the towing company—that they own the bikes before they can get them back.
That strategy has “delayed or prevented the return of vehicles in the past,” Hoffman wrote in an email this week.
East Rock Alderman Justin Elicker welcomed the development, but said it doesn’t go far enough. At any rate, it’s a placeholder policy until stronger anti-dirt-biking laws can be created, he said.
The new police policy is the latest development in the city’s ongoing efforts to prevent people from riding dirt bikes on city streets. Throughout this summer—and summers past—dirt bikers have screamed around the city, doing wheelies and flouting traffic laws, in one case hitting a 7-year-old girl standing with her father on a sidewalk at a bus stop. Neighbors have lodged numerous complaints, but the police have had trouble catching the scofflaws, due to the police department’s no-chase policy.
Dirt bikers who are caught receive tickets. (Click here to read about one rider, pictured in the photo at the top of the story, who ended up paying a $75 court fine.) Unless there is a more serious crime involved, their bikes are towed away, not impounded. The bikes are retrievable from the towing company for a fee of about $80 plus daily storage costs, and proof of ownership.
Recently, the city has begun looking into what laws it has—or could make—to assist police in stopping dirt bikers. The city’s corporation counsel revealed at a meeting this month that cops would be within their rights to impound recovered dirt bikes instead of having companies tow them to private lots. This would make it hard for dirt bikers to retrieve the bikes.
But the police department has decided not to exercise that option, according to Hoffman. It would amount to free storage for the dirt bike owner until a judge orders the bike returned, and the police department doesn’t have the storage space or staff to start such a system, Hoffman wrote.
Instead, cops will start giving the tow companies written instructions not to return dirt bikes “until a police officer verifies owner paperwork.”
District managers will be the point people for this sign-off. The dirt-bike owner will have to contact police. The district manager will then assign a cop to meet the purported owner at the towing company and verify his paperwork.
“It adds a level of scrutiny that wasn’t there before,” Hoffman said. “We want to make sure that the tow companies are not releasing unregistered bikes to people that don’t own them.” Usually dirt bikers who are caught don’t own the bikes they’re riding, Hoffman said.
The new policy will also give cops another chance to have a face to face meeting with a dirt biker, and maybe the rider’s parents. “They may get a second talking-to,” Hoffman said.
What’s more, the dirt biker won’t be able to ride his bike out of the lot. He’ll have to walk it home or have a truck pick it up, Hoffman said.
Elicker said he is disappointed the cops didn’t go for an impounding option, discussed earlier this month, that would force riders to appear in court. “The logistical issues can be overcome,” he said.
Another concern: “I don’t trust the tow companies to follow the procedures given to them by the police department,” he said. What options do police have to ensure towing companies follow the new policy? he asked.
Hoffman said the tow companies that don’t comply with the new procedure could be removed from the city’s towing contract list: “I think there’s some incentive to follow the rules.”
The bigger goal, Elicker said, is working on making laws at the state level to give cops more tools to go after dirt bikers. Now’s the time, as the dirt-biking season comes to a close, Elicker said. That way the cops can collect the bikes on the first nice spring day they come out and hold onto them.
Elicker said the city’s corporation counsel’s office is working with New Haven state Rep. Roland Lemar on several possible changes to state statutes, including increasing fines for illegal dirt biking and for holding seized bikes and ATVs.
Tags: dirt bikes
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Great piece! Glad that there are a few politicians left who actually care about the quality of life issues that directly determine how many jobs we actually can support within our communities. Reducing the number of people who get run over by dirt bikes or are too afraid to let their kids walk to school because of them is just a side benefit.
This stands in stark contrast to our current Aldermanic “Leadership.” They just seem to take donations for pet programs and pipelines, and play lip service to these types of issues, while working behind closed doors to take actions (like voting against a streetcar that could produce 1,500 good union jobs, and pushing through a “charter reform” group with no public input) that all but ensure our economy will never recover.
I won’t even mention the too little too late as this movement needs all the positive reinforcement it can get.
I can’t express enough appreciation to the people who have organized and are spearheading this movement to get City officials to act on this gross invasion of our right to peaceable enjoy public spaces, improve the overall quality of life in New Haven and stop some of these riders who are using the bike venue for illegal activities (because they can’t be stopped or caught holding)
If it takes the response time I think it will to meet an available officer at the tow yard, any bikes picked up on the last few “good weather” days this month won’t be able to be retrieved until spring.
The movement is definitely on the right track, lets hope our legislators act on these ideas as fast as if they were voting themselves a raise.
What will happen to the bikes that never get picked up? Will the tow companies sell them? Is there any way the city could get a portion of the proceeds?
What if we sent these bikes to a local school to be dismantled for “educational purposes?” “Here’s your bike back. We had to cut the frame to fit it inside the box.”
Kudos to Alderman Justin Elicker for taking the initiative and investing time and political capitol in this issue.
The city needs to try harder on this one. One gets the sense that the city is trying to pacify the newly formed and vocal coalition against illegal traffic without truly investing in change.
New Haven and CT should follow Baltimore’s example and pass an impound and dispose statute. This kind of statute will give law enforcement an effective means policing the siutation. Imagine how frustrating it must be to track down the bike, impound, and then see the kid whizz by you the next week.
I second the sentiment that the only way to prevent the PD from wasting its time on tracking down (through good police work and with the many tips residents are giving about where the bikes are stored overnight) those that are assaulting our public spaces is with and impound and dispose law. The current law is a very watered down version of that. Currently there is no real good disincentive not to terrorize this city with dangerous stunts on public roads and parks.
Note: the gentleman in the photo above is not on his bike for transportation but rather to joyride through our streets at our expense!
Impound and dispose- music to my ears. If they can do it other places they can do it here.
Alderman can pass ordinances to give the Police more power to enforce.
Storage problems? If they wanted too they could find a place.
Can’t the Police hold property in evidence if it is suspected or used in the commission of a crime or evidence of one- didn’t they steal (i mean confiscate) that women’s phone for video taping the Sargent stepping on that guys neck. She didn’t that back for several weeks to a month. Whats the difference??
I agree the City can try much harder to solve this issue