With summer in full swing, people are out taking advantage of the warm weather. Some of those people are not only taking advantage of the warm rays, they’re also causing problems.

On any given day, and at any given time of day, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are racing through neighborhoods, city streets and on ditchbanks. Law enforcement officials throughout the county report that complaints about these off-road vehicles are on the rise.

“They are being disruptive in the neighborhoods by driving in an unsafe manner and at high rates of speed,” said Belen Police Lieutenant Dan Robb. “There’s not a specific area of town where we’re receiving the most complaints — they’re all over town.”

The Belen Police Department receives between five and 10 complaints a week about four-wheelers racing down the road, blowing up dust and just being too loud. Robb also said most of the complaints he’s received about the off-road drivers are that they are riding on city streets.

“It’s illegal for these types of vehicles to be on the road,” Robb said. “Unless the vehicle is registered, we will cite people for having no registration, no insurance and with driving on the roadway.”

If the problem persists with someone who has been repeatedly cited, he said, the vehicle will be towed, in an effort to curb the problem.

“We want them to go out and have fun, but we want them to do it in a safe manner,” Robb said. “I advise them to take their four-wheelers to the mesa and ride them there in a safe and responsible way.”

Los Lunas Police Sergeant Josh Perea also said he’s seen an increase in complaints about four-wheelers. On a scale from one to 10, the problem is between eight and 10 during the summer months, he said.

“The problems we’re having deal with speed,” Perea said. “They are driving on ditchbanks and residential streets. One of our biggest concerns is the juveniles who ride these all-terrain vehicles without any safety equipment.”

Los Lunas has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to four-wheelers on residential streets. Perea said officers will cite anyone they find driving where they are not supposed to.

In other cases, when citizens call in to complain that a four-wheeler in the neighborhood is causing a disturbance, Perea said, officers will give warnings before they issue a citation.

“It all depends. We know they are just trying to have fun, but if we know someone is becoming a constant nuisance, we’ll give out a citation,” Perea said. “We’ll also give citations to those people who don’t wear eye protection (which is legally required) or to people who are under 18 (years old) not wearing a helmet.”

Bosque Farms Police Chief Louis Burkhard said he is having the same types of problems with four-wheelers. His officers get a lot of calls from village residents complaining about the dust and noise.

“As ATVs become more popular, we see the problem getting bigger,” Burkhard said. “We see a lot more problems in the summer months.”

Because there are not any mesas or open spaces for people in Bosque Farms to freely ride their ATVs, they are resorting to riding along the residential streets and ditchbanks.

“They’ve become a nuisance to people in the neighborhoods,” Burkhard said. “We’ll get about five or six complaints a week, and a few people have come into the office with a video tape of people riding four-wheelers on the ditchbank.”

Bosque Farms has zero tolerance for people riding four-wheelers on residential streets. Burkhard said officers have and will issue citations for driving off-road vehicles on the street.

“We are just asking people to be considerate of their neighbors,” Burkhard said. “They don’t understand that they are creating a nuisance with all the noise and dust.”

Lieutenant David Carr of the Valencia County Sheriff’s Department said officers have also been receiving numerous calls about four-wheelers driving recklessly on ditchbanks.

“Most of the complaints are about the noise and the dust,” Carr said. “This is not one of our biggest problems in the county, but it’s a complaint that citizens have.”

The sheriff’s department receives between 15 and 20 calls a week from people complaining about the ATVs. The deputy often arrive on scene long after the driver of the four-wheeler has left the area, Carr said.

“There are plenty of open spaces in the this county where people can go out and have fun on their four-wheelers,” Carr said. “We are just asking that people think before they create a nuisance for other people.”

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.