Byram residents question fairness of police ATV ban enforcement

| 28 Sep 2011 | 03:01

    Homeowners charge police By Kathlyn Kaplan Byram - Jim Costanza had two complaints when he addressed the Byram council on Oct. 17. One was that all-terrain vehicles were running freely on his residential street. His second, and perhaps more serious, complaint was that the police are protecting the violators. “It started in 2003 with ATVs on the roadway,” said Costanza, who lives on Lake Drive. “The situation does not stop. The police are refusing to do anything.” According to Costanza, the problem is one of “cronyism.” He claims the people riding illegally on his street are a retired police officer living at one end of the street and an active police officer who lives at the other end. And Costanza is not alone in his belief. “With the ATV situation, we all know who these people are,” said neighbor Scott Olsen. “The police department has been lax on this issue. They ride themselves. Their kids ride them. We have an issue that is more than enforcement.” However, Acting Police Chief Raymond Rafferty emphatically dismissed the charges leveled against his department. “We have a zero tolerance policy,” he said in a telephone interview. “If you are caught on the road and in violation, you will be issued a summons. The officers do not have discretion to give a warning. It is strict enforcement.” As far as Rafferty is concerned, the “real culprit” is the topography of the area, which favors the violators. “The problem is that it’s a heavy wooded area. By the time someone (a police officer) gets there, they (the violators) are in the woods,” said Rafferty. “If an officer does not witness it, they can not sign a complaint.” To fight the problem, Rafferty said, his department has officers patrolling the areas most affected by ATV violators. He places some of the blame for the problem on the homeowners, for not filling complaints with the police department. “These residents have not come forward,” he insisted. Rafferty also dismissed charges that the regulations are not clear or that the public is not aware of them. “We handed out fliers to all the residences. We went door to door,” he said. “We went above and beyond in order to get the message out.” What’s more, her added, “Based on the manufacturer’s standards posted on the ATVs themselves, these vehicles do not meet the safety standard of the motor vehicle code. They are geared as an off-road vehicle.” Costanza received the support of some council members, including Councilwoman Donna Griff, who said she has had similar experiences. “I see them on the bike paths, I see them on the railroad tracks,” she said. In response to Costanza’s complaint, the council instructed Township Manager Greg Poff to meet with Rafferty and report back to the council and public at the next council meeting on Nov. 7. disregard the problem to protect the violators