CAMDEN, NJ — Especially sharp-eyed residents may have caught on to a noticeable change in their Twitter feeds this spring courtesy of the Camden County Police Department: ATVs and dirt bikes.
The off-road vehicles — usually on their way to be impounded — featured on their page have been part of the department’s newly-ramped up efforts to seize vehicles used or parked illegally in the city.
“There’s a seasonal uptick in the use of these off-road ATVs and motorcycles, which present a tremendous quality of life concern. It is something we hear about at every community meeting we have,” Assistant Chief of the CCPD, Gregory Carlin, told TAPinto Camden in an interview. “The main concern right now is of course violent crime and the coronavirus, but it is still a very serious concern we know is not unique to many cities in the United States.”
In Camden so far, there have been four collisions involving the off-road vehicles and no fatalities. All of 2019 saw 16 crashes and two people died as a result.
Last year, police officers seized over 60 of the vehicles throughout the year.
Since they began to more-stringently seize them on April 1, they have obtained or impounded roughly 13 (a total of 20 since the year began).
Camden County Freeholder Jeff Nash said ATVs infringing on parkland has been an ongoing issue in the city.
“It’s a big problem for them to come in and rip up turf,” he said over the phone. “When we’re building parks sometimes you see fencing put in specifically to keep the vehicles out. It’s something we’re always grappling with.”
But Carlin said throughout the week and especially the weekend, “no area or road is off limits to them.”
He said the PD has recently kept busy and that has been evidenced on the department's online page.
Just on Mother’s Day, it posted of a yellow dirt bike illegally used at Central and Master St., a scooter impounded after its use at 6th and Jackson streets, and an ATV seeing its final days following illegal-use on Lakeshore Drive.
Residents are encouraged to report any ATVs or dirt bikes being illegally used or parked in their neighborhood through the STOPit Solutions app using the access code “CAMDENNJ.”
“You can report them without identifying yourself,” Carlin said, acknowledging that some residents may be hesitant to do so.
The police department already makes use of the app for reports on other potential illicit activities and has a ShotSpotter system in place as well.
As part of newer tactics, he added that images of suspects using said vehicles will soon be posted online prompting residents — who may better identify a perpetrator — to call in if they recognize someone during an illegal ATV-related activity.
“Yes, there will be challenges, especially during the pandemic with many people wearing face masks when they go out, but we know when someone has a unique identifier it is more likely to be pointed out by someone that knows them or is from the block the person frequents.”
Carlin said residents should not be putting themselves in harm’s way when providing these tips but know that in many cases they can prove fruitful.
“We are vigilant of not only individuals but storage locations,” he said. “Sometimes a group of individuals may keep their bikes in one location. We want to know about those too.”