ATVs ( file photo by Briana Carnegie)

Proposed ATV Bylaw Doesn’t Win Over Police

Chatham-Kent police aren’t changing their minds.

A one-year pilot allowing off-road vehicles on several municipal roads and highways is almost up, but Police Chief Gary Conn still isn’t in favour of the bylaw that will be going to council in a few weeks — at least the way it’s currently laid out.

Conn says 22 criminal charges related to ATVs have been laid during the trial bylaw period since its inception on March 7, 2016. That’s compared to zero in all of 2015.

“A lot of the people that we run into operating these devices are law-abiding citizens. But unfortunately you have a few who abuse it,” says Conn, noting criminal charges run the gamut from flight from police, to dangerous and impaired operation, to theft. “As a result… you paint them all with the same brush.”

Calls for service, mostly relating to property damage and noise complaints, jumped 43%. Officers responding to 59% of those calls, Conn says, didn’t have the equipment required to access off-road areas, and therefore couldn’t properly enforce the rules.

Conn also has concerns about a part of the bylaw that allows ATVs to plow snow in Chatham, on the day of or after a major snowfall.

“Number one being the interpretation of what is a snow day and what is the day after a snow day?” says Conn. “And then we’ll run into some users who will say I’m plowing my driveway and now I’m going over to plow [a family member’s].”

Conn tells us he’s open to amending the bylaw to restrict ATVs to rural areas only. After all, he says, they’re called “off-road vehicles” for a reason.

“The fact still remains that these are off-road vehicles and they’re designed to be used off-road in rural settings,” Conn says. “They were never designed, nor the tires designed, to be ridden on paved asphalt.”

-With files from Paul Pedro and Natalia Vega.