New police motorcycle adds another dimension to patroling roadways in the Town of Hamburg

People have been doing double takes lately when Town of Hamburg Police Officer Timothy Crawford is out on patrol.

They aren’t really looking at Crawford though, but at his wheels, a 2009 Harley Davidson motorcycle, the newest police patrol vehicle in the Town of Hamburg.

“This is a great tool for the department,” said Hamburg’s Chief of Police Carmen Kesner. “There are things a motorcycle can do that cars can’t and there are things they can do to free up cars for other types of calls.

“For instance, at accident scenes the motorcycle will be able to weave its way through congested areas, while a patrol vehicle would be trapped. Same with construction areas,” he added.

“We will also be using the motorcycle for escort duty, like we just did for the Dash-N-Splash at the town park during the Blast on the Beach. By using the motorcycle this frees up the patrol cars to answer calls.”

According to Crawford, the primary use of the motorcycle is for traffic patrol, which relieves a patrol car to be used for other types of calls, including drug arrests, domestic calls and larcenies.

“The motorcycle is perfect for traffic duty,” said Crawford. “We can get into tighter, smaller spots and it is amazing how people don’t really pay attention to someone on a motorcycle.

“They will drive right by me, speeding, talking on a cell phone, not wearing a seat belt or even drive through a stop sign without even looking in my direction. They are always so surprised when I pull them over and almost always say, ‘I never saw you there,’ which is amazing to me,” said Crawford.
He hopes one of the things accomplished by the addition of a motorcycle patrol is that people pay more attention to motorcycles in general.

“People really do not pay as much attention to a motorcycle on the road as they do with a regular car or truck, which is why there are so many accidents,” said Crawford, who has ridden motorcycles for about seven years.”

“Once people are aware of the fact we have a motorcycle patrol, they should start paying more attention to all motorcycles. This will be an added benefit for all motorcyclists,” Crawford added.

M1, as the motorcycle is called, is as fully equipped electronically as any of the patrol cars. Up front on the left side of the handlebars is the radio, and a fixed radar gun will soon be mounted on the right side. Currently, the radar gun is hand-held and can only be used when M1 is stationary.

“That does limit its use a bit,” said Crawford. “I certainly can’t reach down while I’m driving to pull it out and then use it. That would be a bit hazardous.”

In the back is a special saddle-bag/carrier unit which holds the computer and printer which will dispense traffic tickets.

“It works great. I’m hooked up to all the same programs as the other patrol officers and I can check for warrants, suspensions, stolen vehicles and anything else that would be in the system,” said Crawford.
The motorcycle, which is a Harley Davidson Road King, weighs about 850 pounds and was purchased last autumn with money the Hamburg Police Department received from drug seizure arrests.

“That money has to be used to purchase police equipment,” said Kesner. “I’m always looking for better ways to do things and a patrol motorcycle was something that I had been working on for a while. And the town, especially Supervisor Steven Walters, was highly supportive of this. I spoke to other agencies that used motorcycles, like Cheektowaga, Amherst, West Seneca, the Erie County Sheriff’s Department and the State Police, to find out everything I could about them before we took that step.”

“Then when I asked the department for interested officers, Tim was the first to get on board. He was very enthusiastic, and I don’t think this would have come through as well as it has without all his hard work,” added Kesner.

He went on to say that Crawford has given a lot of his personal time to working on the motorcycle in making sure all the equipment is properly mounted.

That includes some additional lights, which he added to the side of the front wheel at the end of July, and helping to draft up a policy for the bike patrol.

According to Kesner, an added benefit to having a motorcycle is they are more gas efficient and have an expected 10-year life span. A patrol car is usually replaced every 18 months or so.

“With the price of gas and the type of patrols we could use a motorcycle for, it just made sense to pursue this,” said Kesner.

The department put out a bid for the motorcycle and was able to purchase the $19,000 model for about $16,000.

Then it was off to the shop for a black and white paint job, to match the rest of the fleet, lights and decals and then back to the “barn” in Hamburg.

Crawford also has been undergoing some preparation work before hitting the streets with the cycle.
“One of the training experiences was a two-week training school run by Harley Davidson in Michigan,” said Crawford. “There, we used the same machine as ours and we learned everything about them, what they can do and how to handle them.”

This included how to pick up the bike if it is dropped, maneuvering in tight areas and how to use the brakes.

“Braking is critical,” said Crawford. “Always get your speed down so you can maneuver or at least not hit something at a higher speed. You have a better chance of walking away.”

“The worse thing you can do is lay the motorcycle down on the ground. There is no slowing down, then the momentum is going to carry you right into whatever you were heading for,” he added.

Crawford went on to say that even though he has been riding a motorcycle for years he learned a lot from that school and feels more confident now that he and the bike are out on the road.

“We used it the first time at the Buffalo St. Patrick’s Day Parade this year,” said Crawford.

Since then, M1 has been out on the road this spring and summer on non rainy days.

“I have written a lot of tickets so far this season, with many of them being for cell phone use while driving,” said Crawford. “So far, no one I’ve stopped has given me any difficulty. Actually I have had a pretty positive response from the public when they see me on the motorcycle. There have even been a few times when motorists have given me the thumbs up sign.”

Along with Crawford, Officer Thomas Boyer has been trained for motorcycle patrol.

“We do not want to have more than two officers using a motorcycle,” said Kesner. “The more people using a vehicle, the better the chances of something going wrong or being overlooked.”

According to Kesner, he hopes that additional seizure money will be forthcoming to continue to outfit the motorcycle patrol with possibly a second motorcycle down the road.

“We will wait to see how this works before we pursue purchasing another motorcycle, but as far as I can see, right now this has been very positive for the town and department,” said Kesner.