NL police request help from area departments as dirt bikers, ATVs take over city streets
New London ― Summer’s back and so are the illegal dirt bikes.
Police said more than a dozen of the bikes gathered at the intersection of Colman and Broad streets on Wednesday evening where they were blocking traffic, performing wheelies, driving on the sidewalk at high rates of speed and weaving in and out of traffic.
The illegal activity led to one arrest, one minor injury to a New London police officer and ended with police calling for help from nearby departments.
Dwayne Sablon, 28, of 35 Fort Hill Road in Groton was arrested after police said he struck an officer in the leg with the back tire of his bike during his attempt to flee. The officer was not hospitalized.
Sablon was charged with assault on a police officer, interfering with police, operating a motorcycle without a motorcycle endorsement, reckless driving and obstructing an intersection. Sablon was released on a $5,000 bond and is due back in New London Superior Court on July 18.
Sablon’s motorcycle was also seized, one of the methods used by police to deter violations of a city ordinance passed in 2018 that formally prohibits ATVs and dirt bikes from city streets. The ordinance also imposes fines beginning at $1,000 for a first offense and allows police to keep seized bikes and sell or destroy them. The ordinance also bans the sale of gasoline to dirt bikes and ATVs.
The dirt bikes are typically not registered or road legal, lacking safety features like signal lights.
After New London’s call for mutual aid on Wednesday, state police troopers and officers from Waterford, Groton Town, Groton City, East Lyme and Ledyard all responded to help out. While the police presence is sometimes enough to scare off illegal riders, police have said in the past that state regulations that bar police pursuits often leave officers with few options other than to seek out illegal bikes after they’ve been spotted on the road.
New London Police Chief Brian Wright said multiple bikes have been seized as part of the prevention effort, calling the illegal operation of dirk bikes and ATVs on city streets “a tremendous quality of life and public safety threat.”
“This is an issue for many communities across Connecticut and the country,” Wright said. “We have seized multiple bikes in our efforts to combat the matter. We will continue to exert the upmost diligence to address this concerning issue in compliance with Connecticut general statues, city ordinance, and policy.”
The dirt bikers and ATVs have been a problem since 2017 with large groups of youths driving them recklessly around the city, some recording and live streaming their exploits.
Last September, a police officer sustained minor injuries after being struck by a dirt bike as police responded to multiple reports of dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles driving erratically on Colman Street. In that case, police said the driver of a dirt bikes drove toward an officer, who was on foot, and struck him. The rider fell off the bike, fled on foot and was not caught.
Then in October, police said an undetermined number of seized dirt bikes were stolen from one of the city’s impound facilities. Police at the time said they had amassed about 30 dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles.
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