By V. David Sartin, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Lakewood, Ohio -- After a full month on the road, the Police Department's new motorcycle unit already has proven its value.
Four officers sharing two gleaming white Harley-Davidson bikes wrote 172 traffic tickets in September. That's 61 more tickets than all 32 of the department's daytime officers issued during the same period last year.
"It's very effective," said Chief Tim Malley. "There is no doubt we'll keep doing this as long as the weather holds out."
The city revived the motorcycle patrols in September after more than 40 years. Malley, whose father was a motorcycle officer in Parma, said the unit was restored because the city wanted more energetic traffic enforcement.
Police in sedans, who respond to other kinds of calls, cannot devote attention to ticket writing, he said. Those tickets range from $90 for an illegal turn on red to $200 for speeding in a school zone.
Ticket revenues will greatly exceed the cost of the bikes, each of which the city leases for $100 per month from Liberty Harley-Davidson in Akron.
Fred Beitzel, a former Akron motorcycle officer who now works for Liberty, said dealers and the manufacturer benefit from the special deal.
The bikes, which come with huge engines, extra-sturdy frames, unique handlebars and driver controls, are sold to the public only after they have been used by police. Lakewood's bikes will be returned to Liberty in about a year and resold after slight modifications.
George Stevens, whose Elyria Harley-Davidson leases bikes to other suburbs, said a used special-edition police bike will sell to an enthusiast for about $16,000. A city would pay $15,000 for a new bike, he said.
"We've never had any trouble selling one," Stevens said.
One of the people now sold on the 800-pound bikes is Officer Gary Crumley, one of the four members of the motorcycle unit.
Crumley, 38, grew up riding Japanese bikes, but he has come to appreciate the size and power of the Harleys. Crumley and his colleagues completed an eight-day training course in Michigan before starting patrols.
Riders have to use the bikes in the smallest space available, including clogged traffic, along road shoulders and on narrow, residential streets. "You learn to go real slow," Beitzel said.
One thing the Michigan trainers didn't teach was the best places to hide in Lakewood to catch speeders.
Crumley, a 14-year veteran, didn't have to be taught that.
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"I know where they are," he said with a grin. "But I'm not going to tell you."