They return with the spring, like gnats and flies, and can be as pesky as mosquitos on a warm New Bedford evening. They are what New Bedford Police refer to as "erratic operators" of ATVs and dirt bikes, and like many of us, Police Chief Paul Oliviera has had his fill of them.

Anyone who travels the thoroughfares of New Bedford at least semi-regularly is likely to have encountered this motley crew. They ride wheelies on Acushnet Avenue and East and West Rodney French Boulevards, sometimes with rags wrapped tightly around their heads. Are you impressed by their attention-seeking antics? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Mostly these "erratic operators" should be ignored, but often their behavior threatens the safety of others, and that makes it impossible to dismiss them altogether.

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Like his predecessor Joseph Cordeiro, Chief Oliveira is looking for a way to stop these rodeo clowns from harassing folks on the city's streets and in the neighborhoods.

WBSM 1420 via YouTube
WBSM 1420 via YouTube
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"We are enlisting the help of the public to address the problem of the reckless operation of recreation vehicles in our city," he said.

Oliveira has launched "Operation Safe Streets," with an anonymous tip line for residents to call with information about who is operating these vehicles and where the vehicles are being stored.

"The most critical information they can offer us is where they are being stored and who owns them," Oliveira said. "This will allow us to act on this illegal activity without having to engage in pursuit, which of course is extremely dangerous for all involved."

Brian Gomes via Facebook
Brian Gomes via Facebook
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Brian Gomes, chairman of the New Bedford City Council's Committee on Public Safety, praised the hotline.

"This issue cannot be solved by the police alone," Gomes said. "The public can play a key role in providing information about where these things are being stored."

He said the public "can be a great resource in addressing this issue."

A spokesman for Mayor Jon Mitchell would say only, "The Mayor supports the Police Department's effort to address the issue."

The "Operation Safe Streets" tip line number is (508) 99-CRIME.

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