PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As the warmer months arrive, Providence officials are once again cracking down on illegal vehicles being driven on city streets.
Mayor Brett Smiley and Col. Oscar Perez announced they are launching the Providence Police Community Response Team to help address the quality-of-life issues affecting residents.
“We want people to know we are serious about stopping the use of these illegal vehicles that put everyone at risk and make our streets unsafe,” Smiley said.
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For the last two years, there have been renewed efforts to crack down on ATVs and dirt bikes, but they’ve continued to be a problem. City leaders say the response team will use more resources than in past years to help detect illegal activity before it happens and hold violators accountable.
“No one should be using these vehicles, and if they are caught doing so, they will face serious consequences,” Smiley added.
Providence police said they will treat these situations as investigations and target individuals who are associated with ATV storage, operation and sales.
According to Perez, they’ll do this through the use of technology like body-worn cameras and other video footage, as well as social media, undercover police work, and information obtained through the Community Relations Bureau.
“I am proud to be unveiling this new, proactive strategy to address what has been a problem in our community for years,” Perez said. “Every Providence police officer knows the real dangers and impacts the use of illegal ATVs and motorcycles has had in our neighborhoods.”
City residents and businesses can anonymously report non-emergency information about ATVs or dirt bikes being illegally driven or stored by calling the tip line (401) 680-TATV (8288) or emailing ATVtips@providenceri.gov.
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Rhode Island and Black Lives Matter RI PAC released a joint statement raising concerns about the city’s plan, specifically regarding the use of video surveillance.
“Our organizations share the city’s goal of creating a safe environment for all residents, but seeking ways to criminalize ATV and dirt bike use – and utilizing expansive surveillance techniques to do so – are deeply troubling methods to pursue this laudable goal,” they wrote.
The groups believe criminalizing these offenses will disproportionately affect young people in communities of color and “further contribute to justice inequities and distrust.”
“We strongly urge the city, in addressing the problem of unlawful ATV use, to reject intrusive surveillance techniques and the criminalization of conduct that does not belong in the criminal justice system,” the statement concluded.
Neighboring Cranston also has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to dirt bikes and ATVs.
“This unlawful activity poses a severe risk to the public and negatively impacts our residents’ quality of life,” Col. Michael Winquist said. “Any illegal operation of these vehicles is promptly addressed using various police resources.”
Winquist told 12 News the city hasn’t had an influx of groups riding them illegally in “quite some time,” but his department will be working with Providence police in the coming months.
“With the warmer weather upon us, we will be vigilant and continue to use strategies proven to be successful,” he said. “I have been communicating with Colonel Perez, and our departments will work cooperatively by sharing resources and intelligence regarding this issue.”