They do not look like your typical guardian angels.
They sport tattoos. They wear leather and ride Harley-Davidsons.
But a Red Deer biker group that advocates against domestic and child abuse is challenging stereotypes and doing good at the same time.
The city’s chapter of Urban Bulldogs Against Kids Abuse (UBAKA) hit the streets running on Aug. 1, 2014.
Darryl Hogenson, road captain, said UBAKA operates as the first line of defence in the “grey area” where a victim does not feel safe but no lines have been crossed.
“We are not a vigilante group,” he said. “We appear by strength in numbers. We will attend any scene to make sure anybody feels comfortable.”
Hogenson said their No. 1 goal is to ensure the victim’s safety and to be a guard or line of defence. They do not advocate violence.
For example, the minute an alleged abuser shows up to confront a victim, the police are immediately called.
Everything is taped and documented.
“If that individual decides he is going to be dumb enough to try to get at that person we are protecting, we will restrain them and hold them on the ground,” said Hogenson. “We don’t hurt them. We don’t swing. We don’t believe in hitting. But we will do a personal restraint and hold them until the police come.”
Last Halloween, UBAKA helped a 17-year-old who was being harassed and threatened at her job by a group of young women in their 20s. They would show up to her job and threaten to run her over in the parking lot.
“She feared for her life, safety and security,” said Hogenson.
After being approached by the teenager’s mother, the group went to the teenager’s job and parked their bikes in front of the business.
When the teenager left for the day, she hopped on a bus to go home.
A UBAKA member explained to the bus driver who they were and they were there to make sure the teenager made it home safely.
“We followed the bus on the route until she got off and we gave her 20 metres and followed her in parade form to her house,” said Hogenson. “We waited until she got on her doorstep, then we all pulled away and honked our horns just to make our presence known.”
The teenager never had another problem with the bullies.
The worldwide organization began in France and there are now chapters throughout Alberta, Canada, Europe and the United States. Both the police and the courthouse are aware of UBAKA’s presence in Red Deer.
Members also help the young victims in court who may need comforting support.
All members received various training working with victims and background checks. But they will also refer victims to other agencies such as Women’s Outreach in Red Deer.
Hogenson said UBAKA fills in the gaps where social services, victim services, other groups and police miss because of limited resources. The other reality is that not everyone is comfortable going to the police.
There are 18 male and female members in the chapter. It started with five last August.
Larry Wright, chapter president, said they still fight the biker stereotype but they are beginning to change minds.
At the recent Westerner Days parade, the group received plenty of cheers and applause, he said.
UBAKA is rooted in helping others, whether it is raising money for backpacks for youth at the 49th Street Youth Shelter or for the Women’s Outreach Centre.
Most recently it was on Friday when they gave Lehmana Smith, 18, a “hand up” in the form of a 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser.
Smith, whose brother Neil is a UBAKA member, was recently in a collision that totalled her Cavalier.
Hogenson said he is a big believer in karma and wanted to help Smith, who has faced many challenges in her young life. Local businesses, individuals and UBAKA donated the money for the vehicle.
Along with her sister, Smith, originally from Haiti, was adopted by Laurie and Peter Smith of Blackfalds in 2011. She began her formal education in Grade 9.
UBAKA members escorted Smith in bike parade formation to her high school graduation in June.
Smith said she can never payback the kindness that UBAKA has shown her with the graduation escort and the new wheels. Smith wants to be a lawyer so she can help others.
“I have so much respect for UBAKA,” said Smith. “You asked why it’s needed? It’s especially needed for the teenagers in this town. There’s a lot that people don’t see. And for them to believe in (teenagers) is amazing. Most people when they see teenagers, they think of trouble. For them to look at the other side and not to judge the book by the cover … is pretty nice to see.”
To find out more about UBAKA, check out UBAKA Alberta Chapters on Facebook and at www.ubaka.ca.