Paradise Valley motorcycle unit aims to offer better traffic enforcement

The Paradise Valley Police Department now owns Arizona’s first electric motorcycle. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

No gas? No gears? No problem.

The Paradise Valley Police Department is the first entity in the state of Arizona to purchase an electric motorcycle, aimed to fill a void other police cruisers cannot within the quintessentially quaint town.

The new bike’s main focus will be to ramp-up the police department’s traffic enforcement. In 2013, the town police department rid of its motorcycle unit after not being granted town council approval to purchase new bikes.

Four years later, through the help of Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, the department was granted $27,000 toward a new motorcycle after seeing a steady increase in collisions.

Particularly at the intersection of Tatum Boulevard and Lincoln Drive, according to PVPD Community Resource Officer Kevin Albert, the number of rear-end accidents is growing.

In the past four years reported traffic accidents have steadily increased from 171 collisions in December 2013, to 238 collisions in December 2016, records show.

This data anchored the request PVPD submitted to GOHS, citing a motorcycle would be the best way to protect its residents.

“Knowing that Paradise Valley is very big on traffic enforcement because we have a lot of people that cut through town to get to Phoenix or Scottsdale, they knew this would be a big benefit to us,” said Mr. Albert.

“It was kind of a no-brainer in the sense of we don’t need something that will do 500-miles on a gas tank. We wanted something that is small, nimble and will fit just about anywhere.”

The electric motorcycle can drive for over 120 miles on one charge. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

Motorcycle of the future

The bike, created by California-based Zero Motorcycles does not have an engine; fuel; oil; or a clutch. The frame itself is about 20-pounds.

The police department has the bike at their station, but no officers are authorized to use it yet.

“We haven’t launched it yet,” said Officer Albert of the unique motorcycle. “There’s no engine, there’s no revving of anything and it takes getting used to. We’re still trying to find a school that will allow us to train at their school with this electric motorcycle.”

Officer Albert is hopeful that within the next month they will find a local school who can fulfill their needs.

“It’s very different than anything you’ve ever driven before,” Officer Albert said. “The only thing you can compare it to is a bicycle because there’s no noise, no clutch, but more horsepower and torque than probably any other vehicle in the parking lot.”

The motorcycle can last about 120-150 miles on one single charge.

“If we’re looking at school zones, complaint neighborhoods, we’ll be sitting there for the most part waiting for a speeder to come through,” Officer Albert explained. “To put in 120 miles in four hours — that’s a lot of driving.”

The town’s 16-square-mile landscape is a benefit in this case, because the range the motorcycle is being ridden won’t be an issue.

“That’s something that separates us from a larger agency that because we’re so small — Tatum and Lincoln is the only 40 MPH speed limit,” said Officer Albert. “That’s the highest and fastest we can go, everything else is on side streets. For us this is a perfect fit.”

A need

Alberto Gutier

GOHS Director, Alberto Gutier says he was very impressed with the Paradise Valley Police Department’s effort to receive money for traffic enforcement.

The Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety provides leadership by developing, promoting and coordinating programs; influencing public and private safety; and increasing public awareness.

According to Officer Albert, by only having large police cruisers it diminishes the ability to be covert.

“Our police Tahoe’s are big and very ‘look at me’ type,” said Officer Albert. “When we get complaints from residents that say ‘there are speeders in our neighborhood,’ it’s hard to be covert in a large police vehicle.”

The application to GOHS outlined the need for traffic enforcement within school zones, which Officer Albert says GOHS was really into.

After applying for the grant, Mr. Gutier says Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert invited him to participate in a local demonstration at a nearby school.

“They have a fantastic police chief,” said Mr. Gutier. “This young man, we did a demonstration project right across the street from a school and he showed me the benefit of having additional motorcycles.”

The police department excellently displayed their need for the funds through its data, Mr. Gutier says.

“I live and die in data,” he said. “Wingert does a great job as police chief. They use the data and money properly — I’m happy to tell you we did it, it’s all based on performance.”

The Paradise Valley Police Department is already in-line to be given a second grant towards another motorcycle when the time comes, says Officer Albert. First they want to prove their gratitude for the first bike.

“Let us prove to you that you did a good choice in selecting us and allowing us to have the first grant,” Officer Albert said. “Let us show you the numbers that are produced — not necessarily citations but warnings, traffic stops, all of that.”

Paradise Valley Town Council recently lowered the speed limit along Invergordon Road within the municipality. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Filling a void

Prior to 2013, the PVPD did have a motorcycle unit that focused on correcting bad traffic behavior.

Since that unit disintegrated data shows traffic accidents are rising.

“I was part of that initial motorcycle unit and our job was when you have a complaint, you sit in the neighborhood and try to correct the behavior,” Officer Albert said. “If it’s speeding, running a stop sign, you try to correct that behavior.”

The motorcycle officers had the ability to move locations and catch drivers by surprise. Now, the municipality uses photo enforcement to catch speeders but habits are hard to break using that method.

“Collisions are definitely up, we have an idea why they’re up but we’re not sure if we can qualify it,” he explained.

When drivers are aware of the photo enforcement locations they will dramatically slow down in front of the cameras, which could be resulting in the increased collisions.

“A lot of our collisions are near Tatum and Lincoln,” said Officer Albert. “We have a lot of people that speed, they’ll pass the first photo radar at the intersection and then they’ll speed to get to Tatum and Lincoln. The majority of accidents are rear-enders.”

Officer Albert says the department can’t definitively say that is the cause, but says the fact remains that accidents in all directions at the intersection are occurring.

When the council decided not to continue the motorcycle unit in 2013, it was because the chief at the time couldn’t justify a reason to purchase new bikes.

“Now knowing this, I can just about guarantee the council would have said ‘let’s keep them because we don’t want this to happen.’”

News Services Editor Melissa Rosequist can be reached by e-mail at mrosequist@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Mrosequist_

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