Friday, May 6, 2011

Is ATV abuse a gateway crime*?

A pedestrian area in Hawksnest State Park, 8/5/10.

Use of unlicenced ATVs and dirt bikes is illegal everywhere in Harwich (except on your own property).  This abuse is mostly done by teens, with the tacit approval of their parents.

What's disturbing about this abuse is that young "recreational outlaws" are at risk of becoming real outlaws.

It's not good for the community when young people make sport of breaking the law, while their parents buy the equipment.  And breaking the law has become a "sport"-- because people on ATVs often flee, making a mockery of law enforcement.

Stolen ATV leads to arrest

Here's an example of the link between ATV abuse and other crime. 

In March, it came to light that two Harwich 18-year-olds, Thomas Walker and Stephen Jannell, had together stolen an ATV from Eastham.  Apparently, the two had a falling out, when Jannell took the stolen ATV for his own use, hiding it from Walker.

Walker then called the Harwich Police, who went to 602 Queen Anne Rd, where they heard from Walker that "his" ATV had bveen stolen by Jannell.  The ATV was found hidden behind a vacant home on Oak St--both Walker and Jannell were charged with receiving stolen property.

So--what's the link to ATV abuse?  It seems likely that Walker and Jannell stole the vehicle, not to resell it, but to USE it.  602 Queen Anne Rd is close to an area where ATV abuse is common--the DeLuzze sand pit.  From there, a network of hidden trails lead all over Harwich.   Using these trails, thieves have access to your back yard, from which they can make a quick escape.  Source

Several years ago, Harwich Police bought several ATVs with a grant.  But at a March 5, 2011 meeting about ATV abuse held at police headquarters, Chief Mason declined to patrol these trails.  He said that the people complaining about ATV abuse would have to provide funds for any such patrols.

He did say that Harwich Police would prosecute, provided that witnesses would be willing to testify.

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What Chief Mason said about ATV abuse in 2008.

*  The term "gateway crime" is often used to describe marijuana use.  It's said that smoking marijuana is the first step leading toward other drug abuse.  In this case, the link is supposed to work via the habit or addiction of smoking.

In the case of ATV abuse, the "gateway" could be through the disrespect of law that results.  Parents approve of the ATV use, and it's illegal....   So other lawbreaking can't be that bad.  When you drive your ATV and never get caught, you can probably get away with a little theft... or maybe printing up a few bogus bills with your computer.

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