Byram police acquire new rescue vehicles

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:46

    BYRAM-The Byram Police Department's two new vehicles are topless, fast and all-terrain. No, they are not convertibles or SUVs, they are ATVs. Byram Police Chief John Gutwerk said the two new ATVs will enable the force to more effectively patrol township trails, frozen lakes and other remote areas. However, he acknowledged, the chances were "slim and none," that these new additions to the department would play a role in preventing recreational ATV drivers from accessing township- and state-owned land in Byram. "We didn't get the ATVs to stop people from riding their ATVs in the woods," he said. "We're using them to save lives." Earlier this month, the township council unanimously approved an ordinance that put more teeth in existing trespassing laws by stiffening fines for use of the three- and four-wheel motor vehicles on public park lands and open space. The revised ordinance increases the penalty for the use of unauthorized vehicles -- motor bikes, mini bikes, motorcycles, snowmobiles, go-carts, tractors, and even riding mowers n on township-owned property to a maximum of $1,250 and the cost of damages, and up to 10 days in jail ATV enthusiasts have been flocking to township trails for their rugged natural landscapes. Those same streams, wetlands, lakes, forests and deep slopes that make Byram so inviting to all-terrain vehicle designs, also make it difficult for police to patrol. Gutwerk said the new ATVs will allow officers to respond to calls for service in areas inaccessible to traditional patrol vehicles. "We're not using ATVs for recreation," said Gutwerk. "The primary objective is to be there when we need to be there." Gutwerk said his interest in obtaining ATVs for the department was sparked back in April, when rescue efforts to find a man reported lost along the railroad tracks behind C.O. Johnson Park were hampered by the difficult terrain. The chief said his department wasn't able to locate the missing man until a volunteer appeared on the scene with his ATV. "We've had so many people lost or hurt in the woods," said Gutwerk. "It's a benefit to be able to go and help anyone who needs assistance." Lt. Raymond Rafferty, who has been designated to head the ATV unit, said at least two people each year are reported lost in Allamuchy State Park. When and where to use the vehicles would be determined on a case-by-case basis, he said. "If we need them today, they're ready," he said. "We've used them already, but not for a rescue." Township manager Greg Poff said the Hudson Farm Foundation donated $19,000 to the township that went toward the purchase of the two new ATVs and a trailer. Rafferty said a select group of Byram officers from the 15-member force will undergo ATV operational training with the New York State Environmental Police once the next course is scheduled.