New Haven police have seized 33 dirt bikes and ATVs so far this year — and expect to ramp that number up and up, and stop future illegal street takeovers altogether, with the help of fellow cops from West Haven to North Haven to Woodbridge to Guilford.
Mayor Justin Elicker and Police Chief Karl Jacobson made that announcement Thursday morning during a press conference held at the city police academy at 710 Sherman Pkwy.
Surrounded by nearly three dozen city-seized vehicles and representatives from a host of surrounding municipalities, Elicker and Jacobson described a new “joint regional task force to combat illegal dirt bikes and ATVs.”
That task force, formed in August, is led by city police Lt. Derek Werner and includes one police officer each from New Haven, Guilford, Hamden, North Haven, Orange, Wallingford, West Haven, and Woodbridge, as well as the state police.
The police officers assigned to this task force meet once a week to share intelligence and strategize around how best to clamp down on illegal dirt bike and ATV riding, Elicker said. Since the formation of the task force roughly two months ago, he said, city police have seized 18 dirt bikes and ATVs — more than half of the total they’ve seized all year.
In addition to seizing bikes and ATVs, Jacobson said, city police are also levying newly stepped up fines — $1,000 for a first offense, $1,500 for a second, $2,000 for all subsequent offenses — and even making arrests when necessary.
“The people riding these [vehicles] do not see city limits,” Jacobson said. “They just drive and create havoc.” Thus the importance of working collaboratively across the region to share information, scope out planned rides, seize bikes and make arrests when possible, and deter future street takeovers.
These riders — many of whom come from outside of the New Haven region, and even from as far as New York and Massachusetts — “wreak havoc in the community. They take over streets. They disobey traffic laws. And they create a very, very dangerous environment,” Elicker said.
“The whole point of all this is to make it very clear: Don’t come to the New Haven region if you don’t want to be arrested. If you don’t want your bike to be seized,” the mayor continued. “We want this behavior to stop.”
Jacobson agreed. “This is not safe activity,” he said. “The Greater New Haven area will not put up with this activity.”