RCMP talks ATVs with Carbonear coun­cil

Of­fi­cer says anony­mous com­plaints less use­ful than wit­ness state­ments

The Compass - - Front page - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON

Given the op­por­tu­nity to have a frank dis­cus­sion with a lo­cal of­fi­cer about polic­ing is­sues in town, Carbonear coun­cil mem­bers dug deep into the topic of il­le­gal ATV use.

“We get a lot of calls about ATV use — it’s an aw­ful, aw­ful prob­lem,” Mayor Ge­orge Butt Jr. said last Tues­day in the coun­cil cham­bers.

Cpl. David Hop­kins has spent the last nine years work­ing with the RCMP in Al­berta and re­cently joined the Har­bour Grace de­tach­ment as a su­per­vi­sor. Hop­kins said it’s an is­sue that’s cropped up in other de­tach­ments where he’s served.

When a call is made, po­lice will come and do a pa­trol to try and catch the cul­prit, though he added lo­gis­tics some­times make that dif­fi­cult.

I’m think­ing to my­self, it’s go­ing to take another fa­tal­ity be­fore any­thing is done about this, and I don’t want to see that.

— Coun. Bill Bow­man

“What we need to do is let the pub­lic know what the laws are, be­cause there’s a lot of con­fu­sion about what you can do and you can’t do,” Hop­kins said. “I know from ex­pe­ri­ence that cer­tain towns im­pose by­laws that con­tra­dict what the pro­vin­cial laws are.”

One prob­lem at play is the ma­jor­ity of ATVs in New­found­land and Labrador are unin­sured and un­reg­is­tered. At their dis­cre­tion, of­fi­cers can is­sue tick­ets or elect to get the ATV towed.

Hop­kins said it is im­por­tant for peo­ple to re­port in­ci­dents to po­lice, ad­ding anony­mous com­plaints are harder to fol­low up on.

“Un­less we find the per­son com­mit­ting (the act) when driv­ing the quad, if it’s an anony­mous com­plaint we can’t just go over to sub­ject A’s house and give them a ticket, un­less there’s a wit­ness state­ment to pro­vide us de­tails. So if we have some­one who’s will­ing to wit­ness that … we can lay a charge.”

Hop­kins likened the sit­u­a­tion to that with impaired driv­ing. For years, peo­ple were re­luc­tant to re­port sit­u­a­tions where a driver was likely impaired. But through ed­u­ca­tion and pub­lic cam­paigns, Hop­kins said that has changed dra­mat­i­cally.

“It took a while to kind of get that into the main­frame of the gen­eral pub­lic, that we have to re­port impaired driv­ers,” he said. “I’ve seen towns where they’ll have signs — ‘No all-ter­rain ve­hi­cle per­mit­ted on streets,’ things like that.”

Coun. David Kennedy, who also teaches at one of the schools in Carbonear, said there’s a per­cep­tion amongst youth that po­lice can­not catch them, since RCMP ve­hi­cle are not in a po­si­tion to fol­low ATVs into the woods.

“I know many re­ports have gone in with so-and-so with­out a hel­met, and the first re­sponse from the RCMP is, well, un­less you have 100 per cent proof un­der­neath that hel­met or coat was sub­ject A, they can’t do noth­ing,” he said. Kennedy also sug­gested the sit­u­a­tion with

drunk driv­ing and not us­ing seat­belts is a bit dif­fer­ent from il­le­gal ATV use, be­cause peo­ple are not get­ting caught.

Coun. Bill Bow­man told Hop­kins he reg­u­larly calls in com­plaints when he spots ATVs driv­ing il­le­gally along the street he lives on.

“As far as I know, the ATV Act is quite clear in that th­ese ve­hi­cles are not per­mit­ted on pub­lic roads, pe­riod,” he said. “It’s re­ally out of hand now. One time you might see one or two bikes com­ing up the road. Now they have pa­rades, and I don’t mean Santa Claus pa­rades … They’re re­ally go­ing at ex­ces­sive speeds.”

He al­ways gives his name when call­ing in a com­plaint, yet Bow­man has yet to no­tice a po­lice car driv­ing by fol­low­ing his calls.

“That’s not a com­plaint … be­cause quite hon­estly, I don’t blame an RCMP of­fi­cer for not com­ing. What’s the point? By the time you get there, God knows they’re gone up over the hill some­where.”

He re­called an ac­ci­dent in 2007 where a young girl was killed. A big meet­ing took place, and af­ter that, there was a crack­down on ATVs, with ve­hi­cles im­pounded and fines de­liv­ered.

“I’m think­ing to my­self, it’s go­ing to take another fa­tal­ity be­fore any­thing is done about this, and I don’t want to see that,” said Bow­man.

“I have a lot of re­spect for the RCMP — I re­ally do. Be­cause I know you guys have a re­ally big ter­ri­tory to cover with not enough peo­ple to cover it, and you can’t do it all. You can’t be out chas­ing around af­ter ATVs. I’m sure that’s way down your pri­or­ity list. You’ve got a lot more se­ri­ous crimes to deal with than that … I’d re­ally like to see more peo­ple call­ing in com­plaints and help­ing you out in any way.”

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/THE COM­PASS

Har­bour Grace RCMP Cpl. Dave Hop­kins spoke at length with Carbonear coun­cil mem­bers about polic­ing ATV driv­ers who break the law.

COM­PASS FILE PHOTO

Coun. Bill Bow­man wants the gen­eral pub­lic to con­tinue to file com­plaints with RCMP about il­le­gal ATV us­age in Carbonear.

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