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Common Council echoing police crackdown on city ATVs

Buffalo Police Department
Buffalo Police released this photo of the ATV involved in the Juneteenth incident.

In the wake of two Buffalo police officers being hurt when they were hit by an ATV near the city's Juneteenth Festival, officials want a crackdown on the vehicle's use, which they say is on the rise.

The basic issue is that ATVs are illegal, but are increasingly common on city streets and in neighborhoods. At least that is what Common Council members said as they moved along suggestions from the Lovejoy District's Richard Fontana to stop their use. There will be more discussion at next week's Legislation Committee.

Fontana told the Council on Tuesday, the wreck that injured the two bicycle officers at Juneteenth is not the only incident involving the vehicles.

"The accident with an ATV last month, as well as an ATV that struck and smashed the entire front porch on a house on Longnecker Street—the people were up all night because they couldn't get out of their house, with the front porch all smashed up. It was ridiculous," Fontana said. "So we're looking to have the law department look to see the current fines and penalties, increase those fines and penalties. Then, also increase the time that we impound those vehicles."

Fontana also made a proposal regarding ATVs siezed and taken to the city impound lot. Right now, the actual owners can let the vehicles sit there and buy them back cheaply at an auction. Council members are studying a proposal to sell them on out-of-state auction sites that might sell the vehicles out of the area and for more money.

"These ATVs are very, very, dangerous to pursue in the City of Buffalo if you are a policeman, very dangerous," he said. "They are going to ride over sidewalks. They are going to ride over curbs. They are going to ride around trees. They are going to go where people are and they are going to hit somebody as we pursue. Therefore, we don't really pursue. They just run away and they evade the police. So you have law-breaking individuals evading the police in a vehicle that's not supposed to be on the road to begin with. We have to do something."

Council member Joe Golombek said they are a real nuisance in his North District, as well, and something must be done.

"I know that police have been very, very careful because they don't want to antagonize and have speed cases and things like that," Golombek said. "We have to find out where these vehicles are coming from and that's the best way of being able to confiscate them and get the people that are illegally operating them in our districts."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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