WEST HARTFORD — Police are looking to work with other local departments after they say around 200 ATVs and other off-road bikes sped through town on Sunday night.
It wasn’t the first time this has happened, said West Hartford Capt. Eric Rocheleau. At a community forum held in August intended to address what the town called a recent spike in crime, police said they had at that point received 23 complaints about ATVs since July.
On Sunday, Rocheleau said, the riders came into town from Newington’s Fenn Road, which turns into South Main Street in West Hartford. From there, the riders drove through West Hartford and other towns, including Farmington and New Britain.
“It’s frequently on Sunday nights that they do this,” Rocheleau said. “Sunday night seems to be a joyride type of evening for them.”
Rocheleau said that trying to stop a ride like that while in progress would be a dangerous choice. There have already been accidents in the past, he said.
“Trying to stop them during the event is usually not a good idea,” Rocheleau said. “It’s a difficult challenge. It’s a challenge because we know they don’t stop for us. We don’t want to start anything where someone would take off in a panic and hurt themselves or somebody else. It causes us concern. We’ve had some that have taken extra steps to drive up on someone’s lawn and on the sidewalk.”
Instead, Rocheleau said the West Hartford Police Department will work with other departments to address the problem since it is a regional issue.
In August, the department said two officers were already working with officers of other departments on a part-time basis to address issues like the ATV joyrides, as well as catalytic converter thefts and stolen motor vehicles.
“We do have plans in place,” Rocheleau said. “We’re working on some ideas to work with other agencies to prevent this from happening.
Rocheleau said that in the meantime, the department is working on trying to identify any riders they can, but that’s made difficult for a number of reasons.
“It’s a persistent problem,” Rocheleau said. “We know they don’t normally stop for us and it’s hard to find out who they are, because they don’t have a license plate. They wear masks and helmets. We do have our detective division working on tracking them and looking into who is responsible for setting them up. There’ll be some involvement in regional task force.”
In August, Police Chief Vernon Riddick Jr. said officials were looking at creating ordinances against ATVs, including issuing fines against gas stations that allow them to ride up and fill up with gas.