One day after several farmers in Lake Township took their complaints to the township trustees of snowmobiles trespassing on their fields, township police arrested a Genoa man for just that.
Police issued a summons arrest Wednesday shortly before 7 p.m. to Michael J. Lewis, 28, Meadow Drive, Genoa, after an officer observed him crossing a field near the corner of Libby and Lemoyne roads.
He was charged with criminal trespassing, according to police.
At Tuesday’s meeting of the township trustees, farmers complained of snowmobiles trespassing on their fields, telling them and Police Chief Mark Hummer of acreage planted with winter wheat being damaged and “no trespassing” signs being blatantly ignored.
“It’s like a slap in the face,” one grower said of the snowmobilers riding past signs designating private property.
The trustees approved a motion to send a letter to State Representative Tim Brown and State Senator Randy Gardner to request tougher legislation for addressing the problem and to contact the Wood County prosecutor’s office for clarification of the current law.
“We need to find out what our options are and how much jurisdiction we have,” Ron Sims, a trustee, said after the meeting.
Asked by Robert Kapp what measures growers could take, Chief Hummer said they could protect their property if it is being damaged.
“Your reaction has to be appropriate,” the chief said. “The best weapon you’ll have is your phone and some patience.”
The growers said most of the trespassing occurs between 8 p.m. and midnight and is more frequent on weekends.
Chief Hummer told the farmers he’s instructed officers to cite violators and not issue warnings. He said his office will ask the prosecutor for the maximum penalty.
He acknowledged the livelihoods of the farmers are being hurt because the snow in many fields hasn’t been deep enough to protect winter wheat, which is planted in the fall.
The chief said the township police department will be working with departments from other jurisdictions on the problem.
An investigation into a recent burglary in Perrysburg Township involved several agencies, he said, and was enhanced by them having 800 megahertz radios that enable officers to communicate directly with each other.
Lake Township police recently upgraded their radios to the 800 system.
“I’ve never seen a snowmobile faster than a Motorola,” the chief said.
Criminal trespassing is a fourth degree misdemeanor but for violations involving snowmobiles or all-terrain vehicles the fines are doubled, according to the chief.
Joe Cornerly, a spokesman for the Ohio Farm Bureau, said growers have to routinely contend with trespassers
“Trespassing has always been a problem for farmers. I wouldn't say we get flooded with complaints from our members but it is a chronic issue we hear about. It led to our work on state legislation that was passed in 2010. The rules require snowmobiles and ATVs to display a license plate and registration sticker. The rules included increased penalties for those who trespass on an all-purpose vehicle and a “third strike and you’re out” provision that allows for the confiscation of their vehicle,” he said.
Chief Hummer said snowmobiles can be ridden on public right-of-way.
Lt. Jim Pellek, of the Perrysburg Township Police Department, said his office hasn’t had many complaints and Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said he’s not had any complaints this winter season.