The 8th Police District has a new weapon to combat summertime revelers in the area’s parks, schoolyards and cramped alleyways.
A new Suzuki Enduro is the newest member of the district’s growing fleet of off-road motorcycles. Funded jointly by the Franklin Mills Advisory Council and the 8th Police District Advisory Council, the $5,600 dirt bike is ideal for use on undulating trails while remaining functional on paved roads, driveways and parking lots. The district has four older cycles, too.
“The thing that blows up my phone all day is underage drinking,” said Capt. Len Ditchkofsky, the 8th district commander. “The kids drink in the woods and we can’t get a police car in there. Without [the motorcycles], we can’t do a whole lot about it.”
The dirt bikes have been a staple of the 8th district’s patrol strategy for years. Officer Rufus Ragland has used the cycles for about a decade. They are powerful with 650cc engines, yet agile enough to go anywhere a horse, bicycle or ATV may go, while covering the 17-square-mile territory.
“In the 8th district, you can run into any kind of terrain,” Ragland said. “There are streets, paved trails and times when we go onto the horse trails in the dirt and mud. We’re not doing anything crazy like going up the side of a mountain, but we can get close to anything crazy that’s going on.”
In addition to youth drinking parties in the area’s parks, police also encounter homeless camps and illegal ATV riders. Many activities occur deep into the woods.
“It’s like a little city in there,” Ragland said. “We’ve broken up some really elaborate drinking parties where we had to cross railroad bridges (and) follow tracks and trails just to get to them.”
“It’s not just the underage drinking,” Ditchkofsky said. “They get into the woods and get drunk and bad things happen. They can get robbed or stabbed.”
As a result, the vehicles get a lot of wear and tear, requiring frequent repairs and replacement. In the past, older cycles have been passed to other units for training or been salvaged for parts. In past years, the PDAC has bought new cycles and related equipment for the district. This time, the Franklin Mills Advisory Council footed most of the bill.
Ditchkofsky credits City Councilman Brian O’Neill with alerting the Franklin Mills group about the district’s need. O’Neill’s aide, Margaret Recupido, attends monthly PDAC meetings. Bill Finkel chairs the PDAC.
“We’re pleased to support the police and fire departments and support folks in the 19154 ZIP code,” said Jack Irwin, president of the Franklin Mills Advisory Council. “Last year, we donated $42,000 to youth sports groups, senior citizens, schools, churches, police and fire and other charitable organizations.”
The mall’s owner, Simon Property Group, provides the annual funding in accordance with an agreement between the original mall developers and the community.
“To me, there couldn’t be a better partnership between the police district and the community,” O’Neill said. “This is the exact type of thing we envisioned with the mall advisory council 25 years ago. It’s a public safety improvement for the community.” ••