County gets tough on illegal, dangerous ATVs

For years Suffolk County officials have struggled with the ability to crack down on illegal All-Terrain Vehicle use both on our public lands and on our residential roadways. The lack of legal places to enjoy ATVs causes many vehicle owners to trespass on public parkland and/or drive illegally throughout local communities. Legislator Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) has passed several laws in recent years to prevent the destruction of our important natural resources and to reduce the dangerous activity on residential streets that puts lives in danger.

Today, Legislator Browning was joined by Suffolk County Police Chief Stuart Cameron, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office Captain Christopher Brockmeyer and members of the Pine Barrens Law Enforcement Council to announce the passage of IR 1969-16, co-sponsored by Legislator Kara Hahn, which was approved unanimously by the Suffolk County Legislature on December 6, 2016. The law reduces the amount of convictions necessary to seize an ATV and now gives law enforcement agencies the authority to destroy the vehicles.

Prior to the passage of IR 1969-16, law enforcement agencies could seize an ATV after three convictions for illegal use. Once seized, law enforcement officials could either transfer the ATV to any County agency for official use. If not utilized by the County, ATVs were then being auctioned off to the public. When ATVs that were sold through auction ended up resurfacing in new cases where illegal activity was occurring, Legislator Browning decided the law needed to be tougher. She worked directly with the Suffolk County Police Department and Suffolk County Sheriff’s office, which is a member of the Pine Barrens Law Enforcement Council that patrols our public lands, to craft legislation that would deter and reduce the amount of illegal ATV activity in our neighborhoods.

“The Suffolk County Police Department takes seriously illegal ATV use, the dangers it poses to safety and our public lands, and the degradation it causes to our community’s quality of life,” stated Commissioner Timothy Sini. “This legislation will serve as an additional tool to deter illegal ATV use in Suffolk County, which we will use aggressively. I want to thank Legislators Browning and Hahn for their leadership on the issue.”

With the passage of IR 1969-16 law enforcement agencies can now seize an ATV after a second conviction within a five year period. In addition, ATVs will no longer be sold back to the public, and the transfer of ATVs to County agencies must be for public safety purposes. If not transferred, the ATVs will be destroyed.

“This is a growing problem in Suffolk County that needs to be addressed,” said Legislator Browning. “We are sending a strong message that dangerous and destructive ATV use will not be tolerated. If you can’t follow the law, we will seize your vehicle and destroy it.”

“Reckless operation of ATVs within our parks and on local roadways, not only risks public safety but destroys the public lands taxpayers have invested mightily to protect,” said Legislator Hahn. “For years the law enforcement community and environmentalist have expressed increasing concern over the lasting impacts of the “scarring” to both body and land caused by illegal ATV use. I thank Legislator Browning for her work to confront this County-wide problem and know this legislation will ensure Suffolk’s commitment to safety and its environment.”

“With the passage of IR 1969-2016, the Pine Barrens Law Enforcement Council expresses its profound gratitude to Legislator Kate Browning and the members of the Suffolk County Legislature for taking such a strong stand against the illegal operation of All-Terrain Vehicles and for powerfully proclaiming that Suffolk County will never be a safe haven for these unlawful and dangerous activities,” stated  Deputy Director Arthur Pendzick, Vice-Chair, Pine Barrens Law Enforcement Council.

IR 1969-16 has been sent to County Executive Steve Bellone for his approval, which he is expected to sign into law before the New Year.

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