When one conjures up the image of a biker they often imagine a mean, lawless brute with little regard for anyone but themselves.
Nothing could be farther from the truth for a group of local bikers who have taken on the mantle of protectors, helping youth facing abuse.
The newly formed Sawtooth Ridge chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse was officially “patched in” to the organization May 20 and now serves young victims of abuse in the greater Maricopa area. They help children up to 17 years old.
The members operate under a certain amount of anonymity, not sharing their real names in public.
Arizona BACA spokesperson “Nytro” said their primary purpose is to “work with local and state officials already in place to protect abused children.” They do this by filling a gap where law enforcement and state agencies are often stretched thin.
“We walk a fine line in what we do,” Nytro said. “But it is so simple; we show up.”
To be clear, Sawtooth Ridge Secretary “Cupcake” said, BACA is not a vigilante organization or gang. They don’t go around beating up suspected child molesters or threatening abusers.
BACA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a presence in 14 countries. Sawtooth Ridge is the fourth chapter of BACA to be formed in Arizona.
The organization essentially forms a protective barrier around a child in the event of a threat, Cupcake said. If a child in the organization is being threatened, that child’s guardian can call BACA and members in the area will respond, standing guard around that child’s home until the threat is over.
“They can call us up 365/24/7, at 2 o’clock in the morning, if they’re scared,” Cupcake said. “Because these kids are so terrified a lot of the time, they have to go to court and testify against the perpetrator, stuff like that can be traumatic.”
On occasion, the “perpetrator” or associates of the perpetrator will stalk the child by driving by their home or school and intimidating them, Sawtooth Ridge Vice President “Paddy-O” said. And that’s when the organization springs into action.
“We do something the cops can’t always do,” Paddy-O said about standing post outside a victim’s home.
“You got all these bikes out front, which is a deterrent by itself,” Paddy-O said. “And, if that doesn’t work, we become that physical barrier.”
On the rare occasion the perpetrator is not deterred, those standing guard will do whatever is necessary. Though BACA does not call on law enforcement themselves, they do advise the guardian of the child to call and notify them BACA will be responding and standing guard.
Protecting children from abusers is called Level 2 protection. Level 1 protection is companionship. BACA members visit the kids bi-weekly, sometimes playing games, sometimes doing nothing at all, Cupcake said; it’s entirely up to them.
“It’s all about giving the choices back to the kids,” she said.
Whether they are a Level 1 or Level 2, all kids protected by the organization are brought in as official “members,” given a BACA-patched denim jacket and blanket and even offered a chance to go for a ride on a bike of their choosing.
BACA uses special child liaisons to determine who will be allowed under their protective umbrella. Cases of abuse must be verified with court documents and police reports.
Likewise, there are prerequisites for bikers who want to join the organization.
Applicants are fingerprinted and go through an FBI, National Crime Information Center, background check. If their record is clear of any charges related to abuse or any crimes against children, they’re most likely given a chance at BACA.
The organization also emphasizes no one is allowed to be alone with a child.
To further protect the child, there is also an emphasis on anonymity. This means only the court liaison and possibly the chapter president are aware of the kid’s name.
“They rely on us to empower them,” Cupcake said, “to not be afraid of the world in which they live.”
This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.