ATVs, dirt bikes crowd streets — NJ mayor says they can’t do much
BELLEVILLE — A video posted on YouTube (below) by Mayor Michael Melham shows what may happen on any given day along the main thoroughfare in town — a parade of ATVs or dirt bikes speeding and trying to cut through traffic.
Urban areas in the Garden State can do nothing but their hands up and let the non-street-legal vehicles have their way, according to Melham, who is calling on New Jersey officials to relax directives that stop police from engaging in pursuits of these vehicles.
"We can't even put our lights on and attempt a stop," Melham said. "This is totally a disaster waiting to happen."
Guidance published by the Attorney General's Office in May reminds law enforcement that they're able to impound these vehicles. It also notes the fines that can be handed down — from $250 to $1,000 — for unauthorized use of off-road vehicles on public lands. But it doesn't mention police pursuits of the vehicles.
"We have to start confiscating them, but we can't do that unless we're able to make a stop," Melham said.
New Jersey 101.5 has reached out to the Governor's Office and the Attorney General's Office for comment. Both offices are being notified by Belleville of a resolution passed by the town council that says that directives are "neutering police officers and local departments."
The resolution, which calls for tougher penalties on riders, says that riders "enjoy taunting police officers" because they know that cops can't engage in a chase.
Following the lead of other municipalities, such as Atlantic City and Jersey City, Belleville plans to consider an ordinance at its next council meeting that would make it illegal for gas stations to fuel up ATVs or motor bikes at their pumps.
Melham said such an ordinance likely wouldn't do much — a full tank of gas can satisfy an ATV for weeks, and riders can easily fill up in other towns before wreaking havoc along Washington Avenue.