Teen joy-riders create big problems for Kuujjuammiut


Kuujjuaq teens who joy-ride around town in stolen snowmobiles are causing big headaches for the community.

In the darkness of night, they’re hot-wiring parked snowmobiles, tanking up on stolen gasoline, and racing off for some illegal fun.

Ever since the snow began to fall this year, residents of Kuujjuaq have run the risk of waking up to find their snowmobiles gone.

“Around 15 people have reported their machines stolen,” said Kativik Regional Police chief Brian Jones.

But apparently this is just a small percentage of the actual number of snowmobiles that have been taken or damaged by teenagers on the prowl for cheap thrills.

Many who’ve seen their snowmobiles taken don’t even think it’s worth reporting the thefts to the police. That’s because they don’t see how they can count on receiving any reimbursement from the families. The kids responsible for the thefts are also minors who, as young offenders, they say, are let off easy, anyway.

“We know who they are, 90 per cent of them,” said a Kuujjuaq resident. “It doesn’t make any difference how many times they’re dropped off at social services, the next day they’re out and about again.”

One teen involved in several snowmobile thefts has been sent to the youth rehabilitation centre in Salluit.

Last week, when Johnny Adams, the chair of the Kativik Regional Government, and Kuujjuaq Mayor Michael Gordon went on the air to discuss the growing problem, the community radio was inundated with calls from unhappy snowmobile owners.

“It’s not just the snowmobiles being stolen — it’s also the damage done to snowmobiles when they’re stolen,” Adams said.

As soon as the snowmobiles run out of gas or oil, they’re left wherever they stall. When the owners eventually find their machines, they’re sometimes banged up or missing pieces, too, such as the ignition switches.

“People can’t afford it. A few hundred dollars for repairs is a lot of money,” Adams said.

Many Kuujjuamiut also say their gas cans are being stolen or siphoned off by joy-riders. One man who was ready to head off on a long snowmobile trip discovered at the last minute someone had carefully taken all the gas out of his reserve fuel tank.

“We’re asking the police to be more vigilant,” Adams said. “They’ll be stopping more people at night and talking to them.”

It’s difficult, however, even for police to know whether the person who’s driving a snowmobile is really the owner. Snowmobile licensing is not required in Kuujjuaq, although there are an estimated 500 to 1000 snowmobiles in the community.

Local authorities are advising snowmobile owners to keep their machines chained or tied up securely, and to report any thefts.

Parents being also asked to keep tabs on their kids: if they’re sleeping all day, it may be that they’re tired because they’ve been out racing somebody else’s snowmobile all night.

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