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SUNDAY, JUNE 10, 2007
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Police to crack down on off-road vehicles

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com · 340-2395

Four-wheeler and dirt-bike riders who like to dig knobby tires into private property where you’re uninvited, be warned.

Decatur police are now equipping officers with off-road vehicles to chase down and arrest anyone trenching up vacant land without the owner’s permission.

Police have received complaints for years about unauthorized off-road activity and recently met with the City View Estates homeowners to hear of growing problems. The primary complaint area is about 300 acres in Southwest Decatur flanked by Modaus Road, Auburn Drive, Old Moulton Road and the Jack Allen Recreation Complex.

Brian Cagle, whose home backs up to this land, said he’s seen and heard the off-road vehicles since he moved to City View Estates in 2002, but activity levels and danger have greatly increased recently.

“What I would consider the most troublesome part is, we’ve heard gunfire,” he said. “I have two small children, and that scares me to death.”

He also said the four-wheelers tracked mud on the streets and wore out the sod and flowerbeds at the subdivision’s landscaped entrance. The off-road enthusiasts have started fires and held parties late into the night, he added.

“They like to race back there, and the noise is incredible,” Cagle said. “It just sounds like a race track, and as dry as it’s been, it’s just a big dust bowl.”

Lt. Nadis Carlisle, chief of detectives, said other residents and owners of the vacant tracts complained of damage to the land, fences and gates as well as the late-night noise of off-road vehicles tearing through the woods or recklessly driving up and down public streets. Sometimes the drivers don’t wear helmets.

Police Chief Ken Collier said his department has been unable to pursue the culprits because police cruisers are ill-equipped to get back to where the illegal activity occurred without sustaining damage. Nor are police cruisers ideal for chasing nimble dirt bikes, he added.

Police will use a four-wheeler and a couple of dirt bikes seized from drug raids, as well as buying three dirt bikes.

The dirt bikes can be used in searches for lost people, such as people with dementia who wander off in the woods, Collier said. The bikes also will replace 17-year-old scooters used at festivals.

Educating violators

Carlisle said some people engaged in the off-roading don’t realize they are breaking the law, so police first want to educate the public and alert riders they are not welcome on undeveloped properties. Violators will be warned they may be arrested and their vehicles towed.

Police will be available to answer questions from all sides at a public meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. at City View Estates’ barn office, 2813 Old Moulton Road.

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