Black Lives Matter RI PAC and the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island issued the following statement in response to Mayor Smiley’s press conference this morning outlining plans to address the use of ATVs and dirt bikes in Providence, which include looking into ways to criminally charge the operators of ATVs and dirt bikes and using various surveillance techniques to identify and seize the vehicles:

“Our organizations share the City’s goal of creating a safe environment for all residents, but seeking ways to criminalize ATV and dirt bike use – and utilizing expansive surveillance techniques to do so – are deeply troubling methods to pursue this laudable goal. We know that turning civil traffic offenses into criminal ones in this context will disproportionately affect young people and Black and Brown neighborhoods, have a severely discriminatory impact, and undermine the critical need for greater equity in the criminal justice system.

“These concerns are compounded by the City’s stated intention of using ‘video technology’ to track down ATV and dirt bike users. Given the objections that we and others have raised about the intrusive installation of Flock Safety surveillance technology in Providence and the severely limited protections that residents have from this technology, the potential use of these cameras to track and target ATV users should be extremely troubling to anybody concerned about privacy. That Providence is promoting the use of an anonymous tip line to report any ATV or dirt bike possession, even on a private residence or in a private garage, only enhances these surveillance concerns.

“In short, criminalizing traffic offenses that primarily impact communities of color and using questionable surveillance tools to enforce this program will ultimately not support community safety, but instead will further contribute to justice inequities and distrust in the community.  We strongly urge the City, in addressing the problem of unlawful ATV use, to reject intrusive surveillance techniques and the criminalization of conduct that does not belong in the criminal justice system.”