The Bridgewater Township Police Department is working to better handle vehicles that are not registered—but the council opted to table an ordinance amendment about this issue June 20 while it waits on additional information.
According to Bridgewater Township Police Chief Richard Borden, the department has three license plate readers, but its technology has thus far been under-utilized.
But by allowing for an ordinance amendment concerning searching for unregistered vehicles in public areas, that could change.
“They will hit on unregistered vehicles,” he said. “And our department will handle certain parking areas like the Bridgewater Promenade.”
“Right now we do not have enforcement capabilities in these public areas to enforce the rules,” he added. “We don’t have anything ordinance-wise to write the violation now.”
Fines for having an unregistered vehicle as found in these checks, Borden said, would be determined by already enforced state statutes.
Currently, Borden said, the only way to enforce statutes against unregistered vehicles is through reading vehicles on highways or when the drivers have been pulled over for other offenses.
This new ordinance would allow the police to check for this specific violation randomly.
“This is adding to the capability that we would have with the mechanism to enforce the statute at the mall and other locations,” he said. “It would be a situation where we are taking the statute a little step forward.”
In answer to a question from councilman Matthew Moench, Borden said a percentage of the money collected for the fines goes to the state.
In addition, the current ordinance would be amended to read that unregistered vehicles cannot be left in a public area beyond 48 hours. The current ordinance accounts for vehicles that are abandoned, discarded and inoperable, but not unregistered.
And much of the confusion about the ordinance came from this part of it.
“We are talking about the fact that a vehicle cannot be ticketed unless it is parked somewhere for 48 hours,” Moench said. “I thought this was more of a parking issue and a way of enforcing that. If they are parked for 48 hours, OK, but the section provision does not seem like it’s going to really get to the heart of what the officers are looking for.”
Council president Howard Norgalis said he thinks the question concerns whether a police officer can write a ticket for an unregistered vehicle in a parking lot if it has been there for less than 48 hours.
“It would appear in reading the ordinance that if the officers see the unregistered vehicle today, they can’t ticket it yet,” he said. “I think what they want to be able to do is ticket it right away.”
Moench said he is obviously in favor of allowing officers to immediately ticket for unregistered vehicles parked in public lots, but is wondering about the time frame.
The council opted to table the ordinance to get more legal clarification on the time frame and other issues.
“I think that unless there is a time sensitivity on this, we can relook at it,” Norgalis said.
The ordinance is expected back before the township council at Thursday's meeting.