Jonathan McElvy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Spring Break doesn’t always correlate into sunny beaches and too much perfume for youngsters. Sometimes, kids find other ways to celebrate the week away from school.

They ride golf carts and shoot BB guns at houses.

Demopolis City Councilman Mike Baker got a call — not his first — last week about the growing epidemic of young people who pull the governors from the golf carts and cruise the city streets. The calls have come in such a quantity that Baker felt city council members and public safety officials should know about the problem.

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“We’ve still got the problem,” Baker said last week. “People are complaining about all the golf carts on the road.”

Obviously, the safety concern doesn’t spread across the city, but couple a few racing golf carts with youngsters taking poor aim with BB guns, and the risks begin to rise.

“I’ve had a few people complain about kids shooting BB guns into houses,” Baker told the council.

This isn’t a new problem — neither the golf carts nor the BBs.

“It happens every year around spring and summer,” Mayor Austin Caldwell. “And with the golf carts, it’s really dangerous.”

The issue of having golf carts on the streets could be considered a touchy subject. In Baker’s council district, where many people own golf carts and drive them to the golf course on sunny afternoons, it’s hard to impress upon adults the danger of driving on city streets.

“The law is pretty clear,” Caldwell said. “Any motorized vehicle, whether electric or gas-powered, must be registered and the driver must have a license.”

In other words, grown-ups who drive to the golf course break the law when they drive on city streets, unless the golf cart has a license plate.

“The biggest problem we have is with children driving them,” Caldwell said. “But for anyone, it’s illegal — even if adults do it.”

Det. Sgt. Tim Soronen of the Demopolis Police Department said the law is clear on the use of golf carts on city streets. However, he and other law enforcement officials are in the process of compiling information that would help the city of Demopolis establish an ordinance about the use of golf-carts on city streets.

For Caldwell, the issue is more about the safety of young people than anything else.

“[The vehicles] are so small, and they’re hard to see,” he said. “I don’t think we had any accidents last year, but we’ve had several accidents over the years from that.”

For adults caught riding golf carts on city streets, Caldwell said police are to write traffic tickets for the violation. If children are caught riding, he said police will work to find the children’s parents and may issue them tickets.

As for the BB guns, Soronen said he has not received phone calls at police headquarters about the problem. Caldwell, however, does know about that problem as well.

“When it gets warmer, and the birds start flying around the trees, kids start shooting at things,” he said. “And a lot of times, they miss.”

Soronen said it is not a felony — such as shooting into an occupied dwelling — to shoot a BB gun. However, he did say there is a city ordinance against doing so.