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Local leaders are cracking down on reckless ATV drivers, but does the punishment fit the crime?

10TV dug into the court records of the suspects recently arrested in a multi-agency sting. Most paid a few hundred dollars in fines and court costs.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — 10 Investigates first uncovered the issue of ATVs and dirt bikes recklessly racing through the streets of Central Ohio back in May. 

In July, several agencies, including the Columbus Division of Police, Columbus City Council, Whitehall Division of Police, Ohio State Highway Patrol and Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, teamed up to announce a major crackdown. That included the passage of a new Columbus city ordinance calling for stiffer fines and penalties for reckless operation.

The effort came to fruition on Friday, July 30, and Saturday, July 31, with Operation 52.

Officials announced officers had made 11 arrests and impounded 11 vehicles. They also recovered several firearms.

So 10TV wanted to follow those cases through to see whether the punishments would match the increased enforcement and legislative effort.

10TV obtained the names of the 11 suspects, 2 of whom are juveniles.

Here is the breakdown of where the court cases stand for the nine adult suspects:

  • Suspect 1: No charges filed.
  • Suspect 2: Facing charges of disobeying marked lanes, driving under suspension and reckless driving. Case continued until September.
  • Suspect 3: Facing charges of failure to control and not having a license. Failed to show up for arraignment. Warrant issued.
  • Suspect 4: Facing charges of failure to register vehicle and failure to display tag. Charges dismissed because original ticket not filed before arraignment.
  • Suspect 5: Paid $252 in traffic tickets for speeding and disobeying marked lanes. Did not have to appear in court. He was not charged under the new city ordinance.
  • Suspect 6: Pleaded guilty to reckless operation and having no license. Paid $147 in fines and court costs. Was not charged under the new city ordinance.
  • Suspect 7: Charged with having vehicle on a sidewalk and a tag violation. Plea offer turned in to court was to plead to all charges. Court hearing continued. Not charged under new city ordinance.
  • Suspect 8: Charged with reckless operation and having a weapon under disability. Case set for a pretrial hearing. No plea deal offered.
  • Suspect 9: Suspect charged with failure to comply, reckless operation and concealed carry weapons violation. Plea deal allowed him to plead to traffic charges only. Paid $112 in fines.

10TV reached out to the entities involved for reaction to the results.

Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein’s office pointed out that several of the suspects were not charged under the new city ordinance that would have called for increased penalties. A spokeswoman also said the office did not receive a list of the suspects involved in Operation 52 until after at least two of the suspects’ arraignments. That means they were not flagged as being part of this sting.

It’s also not clear why some of the suspects were not charged under the new ordinance. 10TV is still working to track down that information.

The Franklin County Municipal Court released the following statement:

While the two major segments of our criminal justice system … Law Enforcement and the Courts ... are independent because we strive to keep our communities safe in different ways, the Franklin County Municipal Court prides itself on our long-standing, respectful and positive working relationship amongst the many law enforcement agencies and officers with whom we work.

Laws often change, sentencing and penalties often change, and when they do, we have systems and relationships in place so that we’re working in-sync with our Legislators, City Council, and law enforcement partners to adapt to those new laws. The Franklin County Municipal Court is doing just that in regard to Columbus City Council’s recent passage of an emergency ordinance to turn the tide on reckless ATV and dirt bike activity.

Leaders from the Columbus Division of Police and the Whitehall Division of Police did not want to comment for this story.

Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin released the following statement:

Law enforcement throughout Franklin County and Columbus listened to the huge number of complaints we received and vowed to crack down on these reckless ATV drivers because their dangerous behavior put innocent lives in danger far too often. I recognize that the City Attorney and Judges have a different job than I do. However, I hope they’ve been hearing the same complaints and concerns from worried citizens and are using all of the tools they have to protect the public from this kind of danger.

And Columbus City Council Member Mitchell Brown had this to say:

As a legislator, it is not my place to question decisions made by the court. I remain supportive of the Division of Police’s efforts to address this dangerous activity and urge the riders to think twice before continuing to put themselves and members of our community in danger.

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