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Troy, Schenectady Take Action On Illegal Dirt Bikes

Members of the Troy City Council and Police Chief Brian Owens speaking during Tuesday night's Finance Committee meeting
Image capture by WAMC
City of Troy/Zoom
Members of the Troy City Council and Police Chief Brian Owens speaking during Tuesday night's Finance Committee meeting

The City of Troy followed other Capital Region communities this week in moving to curb the use of illegal off-road vehicles on city streets.  

Members of the Troy City Council during this week’s Finance Committee meeting advanced a measure intended to discourage the use of ATVs and dirt bikes on city streets.

Republican Ward 1 City Councilor Jim Gulli introduced the measure Tuesday night.  

“It’s not a cure-all, it doesn’t help our police to catch these guys, but when they do they’ll have a hard time getting their equipment back or they’ll pay the fee for doing that, and I doubt they’ll want to do that too many times,” said Gulli.

Authorities across the Northeast say dirt bikes and ATVs ridden on city streets are often unregistered and uninsured. 

The legislation follows similar actions in the cities of Albany and Schenectady.

The measure being considered in Troy would set the maximum fine for those caught riding on public streets and sidewalks at $650 or to 15 days in jail, or both. To get the vehicles back, violators would have to pay a redemption fee of $2,350.

Republican City Council President Carmella Mantello said what sets Troy’s legislation apart from that of Albany and Schenectady is enforcement. This summer, the city will begin a pilot community policing program. The community policing unit will be expanded in the future. Recently, the city council voted to hire six new community policing officers to enter the academy in July, with the goal to join the beat in January 2022.

“What I hope to see is actually be proactive in our neighborhoods, get some of the folks to rat on some of these ATV users. They know who they are. They know who the illegal violators are in the neighborhood. They know where they’re being stored. And I truly believe that with that intel, with folks actually communicating with our community police officers, talking to them, building relationships, that that is going to be a huge difference in our neighborhoods,” said Mantello.

Mantello plans to have the legislation, supported by Democratic Mayor Patrick, approved at next week’s regular city council meeting.

On Monday night, the Schenectady City Council passed its dirt bike legislation. Democratic City Councilor Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas, who led the effort, spoke during this week’s regular meeting.

“I look forward to the police having the ability to ensure that we have safer streets,” said Zalewski-Wildzunas.

The legislation raises the redemption fee to $2,350 and sets a fine of up $500. There is also a $70 towing fee and storage charges of $20 per day. The law gives police the ability to sell or destroy the vehicles after 60 days. 

Speaking out against the legislation was recently-elected city school board candidate and Black Lives Matter activist Jamaica Miles.

She warned the new policy would further criminalize the city’s youth.

“It did not go well for the City of Albany in how the residents responded there, I don’t see it going well here that we’re going to further negatively impact an already poor community. If we were looking for the safety and well-being of everyone, then we should reach out to the community and look for alternatives other than further criminalizing young people with a lack of resources and opportunity to use dirt bikes and ATVs at a safe location,” said Miles.

WAMC last week asked Councilor Zalewski-Wildzunas about the idea to establish a designated riding area.

“I don’t know if anywhere in the city that we have room, because we are a city, that we could have something set up for people to ride these vehicles...And then we have insurance issues, someone gets hurt, you’re on city property…you know, there’s multitude of things that you’d have to take into consideration,” she said.

The Schenectady City Council also declared the month of May Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month.

Schenectady Democratic Mayor Gary McCarthy signed the legislation raising fees on illegal off-road vehicles, saying in part: "These dangerous vehicles are illegal and their reckless operators create a hazardous environment for the entire community.”

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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