Officer Alex Donchez hits the trail on one of Arlington police’s two new donated all-terrain vehicles.

Officer Alex Donchez hits the trail on one of Arlington police’s two new donated all-terrain vehicles.

Arlington police going off-road with newest vehicles

ARLINGTON – Arlington police have been called trailblazers before – now they’ll have the wheels to prove it.

Police added an all-terrain vehicle to their fleet that will allow them to deploy to remote wooded areas and encampments where patrol cars can’t go. The new $8,984 Polaris Sportsman 570 was donated by Arlington developer Vine Street Group.

Seems good things come in pairs around the holidays.

Mere days after city leaders accepted the donation, Cascade Valley Health Foundation’s 5th annual Festival of Trees “Glitter and Gold Gala” raised enough money for police to buy a second ATV. Police Chief Jonathan Ventura made an impassioned direct request at the event, generating $5,500. The foundation let City Hall know on Monday that they were in for the full amount.

Ventura, who said the department would need two ATVs for officer safety reasons, was shocked by the generosity.

“These are not something that we would have been able to fund otherwise,” he said. “If I could thank everyone personally who donated, I would.”

Arlington and other communities are grappling with the opioid epidemic and the rising population of addicts and homeless individuals who are often living in clandestine encampments in undeveloped areas without roads.

The city owns about 50 acres of forested property along the Stillaguamish River at Haller Park and the Arlington Municipal Airport covers more than 1,189 acres that includes hundreds of acres, narrow trails and some challenging terrain. Each of these areas are known for homeless encampments, hidden away to discourage or thwart detection and eviction by government and private lands by law enforcement, Police Chief Jonathan Ventura said.

“We can use this specialty vehicle for community outreach, patrol and emergency response to these remote locations for incidents that require lifesaving intervention and quick transport of patients to a more accessible place to be taken for medical attention,” he said. Other places where the ATVs could be deployed include the Whitehorse and Centennial trails, and the 4th of July parade.

The timing couldn’t be better. Starting next year, the department will work with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, county Human Services and Marysville police to form a multi-agency Homeless Outreach Team. The team will identify, locate and connect with homeless and vulnerable populations. The team will include embedded social workers who will provide alternatives to law enforcement response for people who have frequent social service needs.

“Our goal is to foster long-term relationships and break the cycle of homelessness, mental health and chemical dependency in our communities,” Ventura said.

Since calls of this nature typically require at least two officers, police are seeking grant funding to buy a second four-wheel-drive ATV.

“These ATVs are a little pricier than other ones because they are street legal,” Ventura, adding that they can’t be ridden on roads with a 35 mph or higher speed limit.

Mayor Barb Tolbert thanked Vine Street Group and the hospital foundation for the ATV donations.

“We are blessed by this community of people and businesses,” Tolbert said. “These generous donations to our police department will allow our officers to reach areas not previously easily accessible.”

The foundation has been a good partner for police, Ventura said. Last year through their fundraising efforts, they purchased portable defibrillators for the city’s patrol vehicles.

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