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City-wide dirt bike problem gains attention

City-wide dirt bike problem gains attention

Residents said it has become a quality of life issue
City-wide dirt bike problem gains attention
A Schenectady police officer looks at the scene where a dirt bike struck a car.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SCHENECTADY -- There have been issues with off-road vehicles in the city well before a man crashed his dirt bike into a parked car and another drove his through a Price Chopper, residents say.

They have been voicing their concerns over the loud revving of the engines of dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles as they bomb down city streets for more than a year. They say it causes a host of quality of life issues that include loud noises that persist late into the evening and unsafe driving.

It’s an issue Police Chief Eric Clifford said his department is aware of the problem.

“Aggressive driving can be dangerous to the operator and the public,” Clifford said. “Motorcycle operators who drive aggressively, operate vehicles that are not registered or legal to be on the street, create a hazard to the community. That is unacceptable.”

The way many off-road vehicle drivers operate their vehicles on the street is disconcerting to residents. It’s something Goose Hill Neighborhood Association President Camille Sasinowski said she has been worried about in her neighborhood.

“They are an accident waiting to happen,” Sasinowski said. “It’s very dangerous.”

An accident did happen during the early afternoon hours on Wednesday.

Police responded to a crash that occurred on Nott Terrace, which they said resulted in the 21-year-old dirt bike rider being sent to Albany Medical Center.

Edwin Montanez, the rider, was later charged with misdemeanor reckless driving for the crash. He was charged at Albany Medical Center, according to the city court clerk’s office. He was last listed in serious condition.

Earlier this month, 23-year-old Traitin Knight was charged with misdemeanor reckless endangerment after police said he drove his dirt bike through thePrice Chopper on Eastern Avenue.

The rider recorded the incident using a GoPro camera as he drove through the store near the checkout lines. Knight posted the 66-second video that went viral on YouTube.

The video was titled “Grocery shopping On A Dirt Bike!!” and was posted through an account named JustDoItTray. As of Friday afternoon, the video had close to 43,000 views.

Police said Knight  created “substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person.”

Sasinowksi said the video posted by Knight gave her pause. She wondered what could be next following that incident as she believes other will try and copy what Knight did.

“It’s just going to continue,” Sasinowski said. “People are trying to top each other.”

Vehicles such as dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles are not considered street legal unless they comply with state regulations, according to Sgt. Jeffrey McCutcheon.

Pat Smith, president of the Mont Pleasant Neighborhood Association, has been speaking out on the issue for more than a year.

Smith is documented in the minutes of the May 22, 2017 City Council meeting where she alerted council members to the issues with dirt bikes in her neighborhood, specifically on Cutler Street.

She said it has spread to other areas of the neighborhood, such as Norwood Avenue, and noted that it has become an issue throughout the city.

“These kids do not realize the danger they are causing to themselves,” Smith said. “But they’re also not realizing they could hurt innocent bystanders.”

Robert Harvey, president of the Eastern Avenue Neighborhood Association, said has heard from residents about problems in their neighborhood as well. He said it hurts the residents’ effort to try and improve their neighborhood.

“We’re trying to making it a more pleasant place to move in to,” Harvey said.

Harvey said he knows the police are aware of the issue, but there can be problems with catching them.

Sasinowski said she knows police have trouble nabbing them because some dirt bikes can go where the police can’t, including alleyways, across yards and down bike paths.

“Dirt bikes have the upper hand in this instance,” she said.

Some residents said police have told them they are not able to chase after dirt bikes. McCutcheon declined to comment on the department’s policy.

Chief Clifford said the Police Department does try to use every resource it has available to them to catch people on dirt bikes that violate the law. This includes using street surveillance cameras, aviation resources from the state police and anonymous tips.

McCutcheon said police have towed or impounded any off-road vehicle that violate any laws. He said owners must provide proof of ownership in order to get their vehicles back.

Neighborhood leaders encourage residents to make reports to the Police Department so they are aware of the situation.

City Councilman John Mootooveren, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, encouraged residents to do the same. 

“We have to have neighborhoods continue to call police and pinpoint where an individual is coming from so police can address it and bring it under control,” Mootooveren said.

Both Sasinowski and Smith said while they know police are doing all they can to address the issue, they believe it’s still one that is hard to tackle. That’s because they believe it’s more of a societal problem than anything else.

Smith said many of the offenders tend to be younger. She said it comes down to their parents bringing them in line. And those parents with kids under 18 years old, Smith said, could be liable for what their child does.

“Basically, I want parents of these children who have these [dirt bikes] to understand they can be liable for the damages, or they can lose their child,” Smith said. “You have to step up and watch what your kids are doing.”

Clifford said he encourages residents to continue to call the police about people violating the law when using off-road vehicles on their tips line at 518-788-6566 and report the location.

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