Pursuing the juveniles could expose police to liability, the chief said.
HILLSVILLE, Pa. -- Fed up with continuing complaints about youths on all-terrain vehicles riding over private property late at night and annoying residents, Mahoning Township supervisors are considering imposing a curfew and adopting a disorderly house ordinance.
They directed Township Solicitor Tom Leslie at their meeting Tuesday to research possible ordinances and report back at the September meeting.
Police Chief Jim Morris said while the township has an old 9 p.m. curfew ordinance, he believes it is outdated and unenforceable. Morris said most problems are being caused by local youths. He said that while approximately 20 citations per month are being issued for trespassing by motor vehicle and for four-wheelers being on public roadways, most of these are to out-of-towners who are easier to catch because they transport the four-wheelers on trailers or pickups. Police wait at the vehicles and cite the drivers when they return.
Local youths, who come from their homes, flee police 80 percent to 90 percent of the time, even when officers turn on lights and sirens, Morris said. Police cars are unable to follow the vehicles and usually lose them when they turn off the road. Morris also pointed out that a liability issue is involved. He said that police follow, but do not chase four-wheelers. Pursuit, he said is only allowed when a felony or imminent danger to the public is involved. He said that if a youth were hurt while fleeing police, the township would be liable because the offense involved is minor. Cruisers try to follow the vehicles home only to try to identify them or to see where the drivers live.
He said he places much of the responsibility for the problems on the parents who buy the vehicles for their children then shirk responsibility by allowing them to trespass and annoy residents. Morris encouraged any resident who can identify a violator to come forward. He said police will file charges against any offender if the resident will identify them and testify against them in court.
He pointed out that four-wheelers must be registered and insured and are not allowed on public roads. The average fine with court costs for trespassing by motor vehicle is $180; the fine is $105 for simply being on a public road.
Several residents, most of them elderly, angrily recounted the harassment they have endured with the youths riding over their property late at night and committing acts of vandalism and harassment. One man said from 11:30 p.m. to 1:45 a.m. the vehicles ride through his neighborhood, preventing him from sleeping. Although there are problems with the vehicles in many areas of Mahoning and Pulaski townships, Morris said they are concentrated on Churchill Road, Overlook Drive and in the village of Hillsville.
Also in response to residents' complaints, Leslie was asked to look into a possible disorderly house ordinance to deal with continuing problems with unsupervised juveniles and into whether noisy "jake brakes" on trucks can be outlawed on U.S. Route 224.