BURRILLVILLE — In an ongoing effort to catch and prosecute dirt bike and all-terrain vehicle riders who disregard traffic laws and ride on posted property, the Burrillville Police Department has been given the green light to purchase two 4-wheel drive ATVs instead of the two dual sport motorcycles originally approved by the council last year.
Last year, the department was given permission by the Town Council to purchase two dual sport motorcycles with on and off-road capabilities, and one special police mountain bicycle to patrol woods, pathways and other areas that squad cars cannot easily access.
At its meeting last week, the council rescinded that vote and agreed, instead, to allow the department to buy two ATV’s on a recommendation by new Police Chief Stephen J. Lynch, who was hired by the town earlier this summer to replace retired Police Chief Bernard E. Gannon.
Town Manager Michael C. Wood told the council that he wanted Lynch to review last year’s vote and funding proposal to see if he had his own ideas.
“Basically, the issue is whether we stay the course or go along with some of the proposals the chief has come up with,” Wood told the council.
Lynch told the council his recommendation is to go with the ATVs.
“I feel that after having consulted with Sgt. (Jason M.) Eddy and his research that the better way for us to operate is two 4-wheel ATV’s as opposed to motorcycles,” Lynch said. “This would also allow us to utilize these types of vehicles in the winter as well as give us more capacity if we have to transport someone from deep in the woods.”
Lynch said the difference in cost between his proposal and the funding proposal voted on for the motorcycles last year is about $1,000.
Funding for the ATVs will include $3,000 from a $10,000 Byrne Justice Assistance Grant received by the town last year; $5,000 from the police narcotics forfeiture account, which has which has $14,000; and $2,700 from a contingency fund.
The new ATV’s will be used primarily to patrol areas near high tension wires, sandpits, wooded trails and other off-trail sections of town. The Police Department, which has been unable to effectively catch dirt bike and ATV riders who break the law, had asked the Town Council early last year to consider approving a police ATV patrol program, which would allow officers to patrol areas that squad cars cannot access. The problem of dirt bikes and ATVs on private and town property has been an ongoing problem in town for years, but everything the town has done so far to curb the problem has been ineffective.
In 2010, for example, the Town Council adopted amendments to the town's general ordinances, which created no-parking and tow zones on Gazza Road and Peach Orchard Road. Both amendments, which were intended to put more bite into local laws governing recreational vehicles on public and private property, were drafted by the town's Ordinance Subcommittee following complaints from Mapleville residents who appeared before the council to complain about noise from dirt bikes and ATV's in the nearby sandpits off Gazza Road.
The residents asked the council for help, saying dirt bike and ATV riders are not only causing a public nuisance, but are breaking the law by disregarding traffic laws and riding on posted property.
According to neighbors in the Gazza road area, the problem is so bad that on certain days there are more than 20 trucks and trailers parked on the side of Gazza Road, their owners zipping along trails on land that is supposed to be private property.
The land and sandpits are owned by Narragansett Improvement Company, an asphalt paving contractor. The neighbors says Narragansett officials have put up two gates and that local police have been helpful in trying to monitor the property for trespassing, but the problem not only continues — it’s getting worse.
Casting the dissenting vote last week on the ATV purchase was Councilor David J. Place, who had argued last year that the department should start off first with the bicycles, then consider ATVs or motorcycles at a later time once budgeting and financial issues are sorted out and there is a better idea how much the training and program will cost annually.