Dillon Seeks Stiffer Dirt Bike Penalties

State Rep. Pat Dillon Thursday announced she has filed legislation to increase storage fees on seized dirt bikes and ATVs.

The announcement comes two days after an aldermanic committee resolved to ask the state legislature for such a bill.

Neighbors in New Haven have long complained about the scourge of illegal dirt biking on city streets. Dirt bikes and ATVs are not street legal, yet riders tear around town on them each summer, flouting traffic laws and even hitting people.

Police have had a hard time tackling the problem because of a no-chase policy that prevents them from pursuing the bikers. If they are caught, riders can retrieve their bikes from tow lots fairly easily. State Rep. Dillon’s bill plans to change that.

State law currently caps towing and storage fees for impounded dirt bikes at $250, according to a release from Dillon. She is looking to increase that penalty.

“Current state law limiting penalties to $250 is outmoded, and should be increased,” said Rep. Dillon, who represents Westville, West River, Edgewood and Dwight. “I will work with city officials and law enforcement to make sure we have a law with realistic penalties to protect public safety.”

Dillon’s proposed bill is expected to be introduced during the 2013 legislative session.

Meanwhile, local anti-illegal-dirt-biking group Stop Illegal Traffic Thursday launched an online petition to pressure the mayor and state legislators to crack down on dirt bikes.

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posted by: Fairhavener on November 16, 2012  9:42am

Fines will just go unpaid and then will get so high that the tow companies will get stuck with these vehicles after time and will then sell them back to the highest bidder at auction.

Exorbitant (1-2k) fines have already been tried in Philadelphia and Baltimore with little to no success. We need and impound and destroy law. You ride it you get it taken away and it is sold to the scrap metal yards under NHPD supervision and crushed—simple. No fines to remain unpaid. You want to get another bike and ride uninsured, unregistered, unlicensed again while scaring the heck out your neighbors and kids again? Then you lose your bike again.

Talk to Sargent Zona, district manager Fair Haven, and Sargent Anastasio, district manager in the Heights and East Shore to find out why they think impound and destroy is the only serious deterrent to this lawless behavior.

posted by: streever on November 16, 2012  9:52am

Impound and destroy, 100%.

Fairhavener: Pat is really accessible, I’d write her directly and tell her that—she listens.

posted by: NewHavenJude on November 16, 2012  9:59am

I recommend that, if there are going to be stiffer fines, they be charged to parents of riders under 18 yrs. old.  These fines ought to be applied as a vehicular moving violation for the adults & affect their ability to renew registration on their vehicles & insurance.  What cannot be legislated is the increasing lack of consideration, common sense, & respect for others.  In many cases, kids learn this from adults.  I also question why kids, who are not old enough nor trained to drive cars,are even allowed to ride any motorized vehicle.

posted by: NHPDHartman on November 16, 2012  2:12pm

I applaud any effort that supports stiffer penalties for these criminals… and that is what they are. These riders are not motor vehicle law breakers. They are criminals and the dirt bikes and ATVs are weapons.

There are several things our community can do right now to mitigate this danger. First, call the Police when you see a violation. If you know where that bike or ATV is hidden, report that too.

Second, record a video. Many of the Officers in your neighborhood know who the troublemakers are. If you show them a recording of the violator and violation, that MAY be enough to support an arrest warrant application.

Streever and Fairhavener are absolutely right. A complete asset forfeiture on recovered bikes and ATVs. They should be destroyed.

NewHavenJude is also on the mark. Parents of juveniles convicted of related offenses should bear greater responsibility. If they are aware of the actions of their children, they should be charged with risk of injury. If their child injures someone else or damages property, they should be charged with conspiracy.

Food for thought: On 21 March, a seven year old girl was struck by a dirt bike rider on Whalley Avenue. Had the assault on this innocent child been committed by a truncheon wielding thug, there would have been greater outrage. The bike was the weapon and the rider, a thug. The notion some have that this activity goes on because there’s nothing else for these riders to do or no where for them to ride “legally” is ridiculous.

It’s against the law, dangerous and needs to stop.

posted by: Fairhavener on November 16, 2012  2:25pm

Wow! Officer Hartman: I’ve met you once before at a meeting and thought very highly of you then. I applaud (hats off really for doing it so publicly) your comment and your Department taking such a rightful and bold stance against this issue.

You’re right, fines won’t do much good. The fines currently in Philadelphia are so high, that bikes are never retrieved and then are purchased right back for less than the high fines at auction, and they are right back on the streets within weeks. Source: http://articles.philly.com/2012-06-15/news/32236279_1_dirt-streets-riders

Thanks again, Officer Hartman, as a long time resident of this City, I can say that I am very proud of the way the Dept. and City is handling this, though admittedly it’s sad that it has taken as long as it has and has required so much organizing efforts by the community—you have our full support when taking on the State!

And at last count, you have the support of nearly 140! New Haven residents who’ve signed the petition here: http://www.change.org/petitions/state-of-connecticut-general-assembly-new-haven-office-of-the-mayor-stop-the-use-of-illegally-operated-vehicles-on-new-haven-streets-and-parks

posted by: PH on November 16, 2012  5:32pm

I would just add that there are existing laws on the books that could be used to leverage the removal of these vehicles.  Arrest identified parties and charge them with any number of traffic violations, reckless endangerment, interference with an officer, criminal mischief, breach of peace, etc.  Plea bargain them down to community service and forfeiture of their vehicles, or for the older ones among them, put them in jail for 30 days give them a little taste of the terror they inflict upon the rest of us.

posted by: Rep. Pat Dillon on November 16, 2012  6:46pm

Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful comments here and elsewhere.
The size of the penalty for recovering a confiscated bike is only one small part of a strategy to respond to this issue. A few points:
1. Although the city was looking into the Philadelphia model, a $2000 fine seemed high, so the amount in the proposed bill was left blank pending further research and discussion. Thank you, Fairhavener, for the link.
2. Some would like to see mandatory licensing; many asked about insurance in addition to current policy.
3. State action can provide some tools, but local initiative is equally, or more, important. The high interest and activism shown so far from NHPD and community, and responsiveness of the BOA, show the way.
I signed the petition, hope you do too.

posted by: safestreetsnewhaven on November 17, 2012  11:56am

Petition is nearing 200 residents who have penned their names in less than 48 hours, this is a really high number, something must be up if this many people are outraged!


Also, it’s important to note that Zona spoke at the hearing on Tuesday that some riders have in the past been offered alternatives where they can legally ride (Milford has a track), and were offered assistance in getting there, and some residents even offered to help pay for track time, they laughed it off, refused to not ride illegally and within days were out terrorizing neighborhoods with the maniacal roar of their bikes day in and out, regardless of the hour, it often starts at 3PM and ends at 3AM.