Authorities issue warnings over ATV trespassing

Published 5:00 am Friday, May 25, 2007

South Mississippi folks love their four-wheelers, and ridingthem down the creek with a couple of brews may seem just the thingto do on Memorial Day.

Not so fast, say law enforcement officials.

“We have a major problem with people trespassing on the creekson their four-wheelers,” said Capt. Jamie Cummins, conservationmanager for District Five of the Mississippi Department ofWildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “Several county (property) ownershave asked for assistance on their land, and we will have peopleassigned to help local law enforcement with trespassers.”

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Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said some people don’t waituntil Memorial Day, of course, to enjoy a day in the woods onsomeone else’s land.

“It started last weekend,” he said. “We’ve already been havingtrouble. It’s something we deal with every summer.”

Cummins said the property owner can help head off the problem byposting private property signs at entry points to his land.

“But if your signs are falling down or being taken, you can alsoget some orange spray paint and paint ‘Posted’ on the trees,” hesaid. “Nobody can take that down.”

Rushing said trespassing can be a misdemeanor offense anddepending on whether the landowner wants to press charges, fines orjail time can ensue.

“The hardest part for us is finding who the trespasser wassometimes,” said Rushing, who said authorities will do their bestto find the trespasser on neighboring lands to get their name andaddress for the landowner.

“Usually they’re just passing through,” he said. “But thelandowner has the right to file trespassing charges.”

Cummins said the issue of trespassing is a safety issue as wellas a legal issue, citing a Lawrence County case a few years agowhere a landowner shot a violator on his land.

Rushing agreed that safety can be an issue, as well as justgeneral common courtesy.

“These families with their kids, they’re just going out to enjoytheir day off at the creek,” he said. “They don’t want to have toworry about people they don’t know coming through on theirland.”

The point, according to both Rushing and Cummins, is that peopleare entitled to privacy on their land, and that it will beenforced.

“State law says you can’t be on someone else’s land,” saidCummins.

Rushing said he’s just hoping people in the county will usecommon sense.

“A good rule of thumb is if you don’t know whose property it is,stay off it,” he said.