PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As the spring and summer months approach, Providence police are once again cracking down on illegal vehicles being driven on city streets.
Over the past several years, police have been enforcing a city ordinance that allows them to confiscate and destroy dirt bikes and ATVs being ridden illegally.
“Don’t come to Providence, don’t ride your ATVs on our streets, and if you do, there will be consequences,” Mayor Jorge Elorza said Thursday.
Providence officials said they have pulled over, seized and destroyed about 250 ATVs and dirt bikes in recent years. Despite these efforts, it remains an ongoing problem in the city, according to Elorza.
“It causes us to use and devote resources to this that frankly can and should be used in other areas,” he said. “It puts a strain and stress on our police department and our ability to address public safety issues throughout the city.”
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The illegal vehicles have been associated with some serious criminal incidents in the past year, including riders violently attacking a woman.
Col. Hugh Clements said the off-road vehicles are an issue not just locally, but also regionally and nationwide. He noted that cracking down on the problem is designed to make the community safer and improve the quality of life.
“The message is: individuals who are operating illegally, against the law, in a reckless manner, terrorizing people, when apprehended they’ll be brought before the courts, their bike will be legally seized and will be brought before the judicial process,” Clements said. “We’ve done that with all 250 which is designated by city ordinance. Presently, we have 97 in queue in our custody.”
Jeremy Costa, founder of Bike Life Lives Matter, interrupted towards the end of Thursday morning’s news conference to ask police and the mayor if they’ve found a space for people to ride safely.
Elorza told reporters finding a designated space for ATV and dirt bike riders to ride safely is a conversation that started a couple of years ago. Right now, he says there’s “no active effort to find a space.”
“The challenge of this illegal and reckless driving in our street is just such an urgent, pressing issue, that that’s what we prioritize and that’s what we’re focusing on,” the mayor added.
Costa says he doesn’t feel the city’s ordinance to prohibit the vehicles is fair, and unfairly targets certain people.
“We need to be able to look at these alternatives, instead of looking to criminalize,” Costa said.
Costa says he has several areas in mind where the city could designated ATV or dirt bike riding, including a vacant parking lot near a highway overpass, Collier Point Park, and even a plot of land in Tiverton.
As the weather breaks, Providence police will once again collaborate with Cranston and Rhode Island State Police.
Last year, both departments announced the creation of a joint task force with the goal of cracking down on the use of illegal off-road vehicles.
Officers in both cities have been put in dangerous situations trying to stop large groups of riders, according to police.
Last year, a Cranston officer was assaulted while attempting to take two riders into custody, and in a separate incident, another officer was struck and injured by a group of riders. In Providence, officers seized 13 illegal off-road vehicles and arrested five riders who led officers on a chase through the city.
“We know, like every other strategy that we employ, when we do this with our community partners and with your help, we win in the end,” Clements added. “It may not be perfect. There is no magic solution for these reckless motorists.”
Residents can report the location or use of illegal bikes by calling Providence police at (401) 680-8288.