- FLICKR/SUNGWON KIM
- Gangs of ATVs, like the one pictured above, will no longer terrorize city residents, Police Chief John Hayden vowed.
Turns out there was something police could do about ATVs after all.
Two days after the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department seemed to throw its hands in the air, saying officers had little ability to stop packs of ATV riders on city streets
, Police Chief John Hayden has issued a statement saying the department will, in fact, be taking action — effectively immediately.
“The police department has been made aware of large groups of ATV riders creating disturbances throughout the city,” Hayden said in a press release. “We are going to enforce the mentioned state statute, which prohibits the operation of ATVs in places open to the public for the purposes of vehicular traffic within the State. This includes our City streets."
If you're busted for riding an ATV on city streets, Hayden says, you could face a class-C misdemeanor. Hayden warned, "Drivers of ATVs on the streets of our City will be subject to arrest and the towing of the ATV.”
The announcement followed an eye-catching report on KTVI (Fox-2) news focusing on how packs of ATV riders were seemingly terrorizing other motorists — zipping through intersections in defiance of traffic laws and, in some cases, even threatening other drivers or pedestrians with guns.
Fox-2's report had quoted a department spokeswoman as saying
, "There are no city ordinances on the books for ATVs," adding, "The problem seen by our Traffic Safety Division is that the ATV drivers will take off from the police and by policy, we cannot chase them for traffic violations."
A woman interviewed by Fox-2 reported that, after she'd called police to say a group had nearly run her off the road and brandished a gun, they'd told her the same thing. "I was so scared for my life, I was afraid he was going to come back and try to shoot me,” she said. “When the police came, they told me they are not allowed to pursue people in the city."
A police spokeswoman notes, however, that their call logs did not show anyone who reported actually seeing a gun, only a "subject digging in their pants," which would be harder to enforce. The spokeswoman also says police told Fox-2 they were aware of a number of options for dealing with ATVs, including the state law now being cited by the chief.
But, she says, enforcing state law on ATVs is a step that requires filing cases through the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office, not just the City Counselor. The department had previously been unprepared to do that; its records show just three ATV summons in 2017 and one in 2018.
In his statement today, Hayden indicates the department is now not only willing, but prepared, to crack down on the vehicles and start filing cases with the Circuit Attorney. And while the charges may only be a misdemeanor, having a vehicle towed could certainly put a halt to ATV-related hijinks.
Editor's note: We updated this post soon after publication to include more context from the police department, including information about its response to Fox-2's questions earlier this week.
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