Traveling on an interstate in Illinois and feel you are constantly aware that a state police trooper could be lurking nearby with radar? Now just being alert for a police squad car is not enough. The Illinois State Police are utilizing motorcycle troopers in increased numbers.
Sgt. Ty Kanzaki is the head of a State Police Motorcycle Unit which encompasses Livingston County. He is the east team leader in this area and the area runs from Bolingbrook to Bloomington on I-55 and on I-57 from the Cook County line to Effingham. The other boundaries for this team are I-80 from Cook County to LaSalle County and I-74 from Bloomington to the Indiana line.
"We change off areas within these regions. By changing off I mean if there is a big football Saturday at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, on a particular weekend then an interstate feeding into that area will be where we direct our patrols," said Kanzaki.
He said May is Motorcycle Awareness Month but his group doesn't only police motorcycles.
In a 10-hour shift in this area on Wednesday, Kanzaki's team issued 25 tickets and 10 warning tickets.
"Approximately 90 percent of our steps are on cars. Even though we are perfectly visible on our bikes or parked in the medians we still have people tell us when we make stops that they can't believe they are being stopped by a motorcycle officer. On Wednesday one motorist blew by us traveling at 103 mph and we always have motorists who pass us on the right and say later they wouldn't have done it if they knew we were police officers," said Kanzaki.
He said that when they do pull over a motorcycle it may be for speeding, but safety equipment on the cycle is also checked, as is proof of insurance and driver's license classifications for operating a motorcycle. Helmets are not mandatory in Illinois.
"Motorcycles are certainly cheaper for ISP officers to operate right now. They are very fuel-efficient and cost one-third the price of a car to operate. The downside to this is that we still have to carry a lot equipment in little space. A trooper in a squad car has a lot more room to place equipment than we do," said Kanzaki.
"Our big advantage is that there is so much more maneuverability with a motorcycle. We can get through the heaviest traffic and to an accident scene where a squad car can be held up in traffic. We also have a lot more visibility because we set so much higher on the cycle," he said. "We also have radar units on the front and back so we can get people easily coming up behind us. We also have Lidar (another type of radar) units.
"Motorists will often tell us when they are stopped that they hadn't seen us so therefore they shouldn't get a ticket. We couldn't be more out in the open if we tried," he said.
He said the readout for speeds for radar are on the handlebars of the cycles and their radio systems are set up to work with any state police district in the state's dispatching radio systems.