Atlanta discusses stiffer punishment for ATV lawbreakers

- The public safety panel of the city council approved stiffer penalties for street riders who disobey police warnings that they cannot be on city streets.

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Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields welcomed the action. So did a west side resident, who told the committee that on a Sunday earlier in June, she nearly got run over by one of the vehicles. Charnette Trimble said she was trying to retrieve mail from her mailbox when a rider roared right behind her.

"He came by so close to me, I could feel the breeze on the back of my leg," said resident Charnette Trimble. "I was standing just like this and this fool rides behind me and waving thinking it's funny."

Pending full approval by the city council, the fine for a first offense jumps from $250 to $750. A second violation, the fine will go to $1,000. After that, mandatory jail time will kick in under the ordinance, anywhere from 30 days to six months in jail.

"Unfortunately, it is just a sad situation that we’ve got to go to this level to get their attention because they really don’t have a respect," said Atlanta Councilmember Joyce Sheperd, who introduced the legislation.

"I certainly would want the judges to have discretion, I am not looking to ruin some college kids life, but I would hope also by; this is the third time we are talking about jail I mean where were you the first two times," said Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields.

Mayor Kasim Reed is away at a climate conference in Brussels. A spokesperson said he shares residents' frustrations about the dangerous riding and worked with Councilmember Joyce Sheperd who is leading the effort to find a solution.

A major problem for Atlanta Police is catching these guys. Chief Shields said most of the ATV's are stolen and it’s clearly a safety situation. Chief Shields said the department needs legislative help.

"Not worth it for us to chase, if we chase and make an arrest great if we chase and there is a fatality we’re are here getting crucified," said Chief Shields. Simultaneously, I am not sure that if this conduct isn't deterred that we're not going to find someone innocent a victim of this behavior."

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