The Urban Bulldogs Against Kids Abuse (UBAKA) took justice into their own hands leading a successful manhunt through Penticton last month.
A man who jumped bail was apprehended by RCMP after the Urban Bulldogs sprang into action and took to the streets to find him after getting tipped off that the man was around town.
It was the first time local Bulldogs member Mike Nikolic had participated in an experience like that.
“It didn’t hit me until later that night, I was still in this state of numbness, like, we did something great here, but it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Nikolic said.
“It’s a rewarding feeling being part of something like this.”
The UBAKA organization provides support to young victims and victim’s families to give them the empowerment and knowledge to get through court proceedings. The Bulldogs help with both the physical presence of leather-clad biker-types to help victims feel safe during proceedings, as well as guiding them through the emotional impact of a victim’s experience.
Ed “Big Dog” Stacey, national president for the Urban Bulldogs Against Kids Abuse, was jokingly arrogant while on the phone with Crime Stoppers a few days before the arrest. His off-hand joke turned out to be prophetic.
“I made a smart ass joking comment to the director of Crime Stoppers and said ‘oh, we’ll find him. We’ll catch him. We’ll bring him in,’” Stacey said.
His words quickly turned to action with two tips coming in, one anonymous and one through an associate of the Bulldogs.
“Lo and behold it was not even a week later and we got information he was still in the area, still in town and what vehicle he was driving and the person he was with,” Stacey said. “I made a phone call to all available members, we all got together I gave them a description and it was kind of like an assembly line.”
Stacey said members would come to the meeting point, get the information, pick a direction and head off to find the man.
The group weren’t on their trademark motorcycles, or donning patches or too much leather, staying incognito in vehicles as they followed down leads.
“Everybody got together and they all collaborated. We stayed on our cell phones stayed in touch with each other,” Stacey said.
Nikolic was one of the search team members that was able to locate the vehicle of the suspect’s girlfriend, who they followed back to a residence.
“Two minutes after she arrived home, out he comes and you have this state of awe. That’s the best way I can describe it. There’s our guy. You have this sort of numbness going over you for a couple of seconds,” Nikolic said.
After the RCMP came to apprehend the man, the patches went back on.
“Most of us kept our patches down until said time as he was apprehended and then we jumped out of our vehicles with our patches on so that he was aware as to who it was that captured him,” Stacey said.
Stacey has a little more experience hunting down perpetrators than some other members.
“It’s a big excitement for all of us all together, but for some of us individually, this is not our first rodeo,” Stacey said. “It was actually quite exciting. We have a couple of members who have never done anything like this before so for them it was exhilarating.”
The successful apprehension marks the first manhunt in Canada UBAKA has ever been involved in.
According to Stacey, a good portion of Bulldogs members are survivors of victimization themselves. The organization tries to match victims with members who have gone through similar experiences to create a personal connection.
While they are leather-bound tough guys, the work is not easy and the Bulldogs have counselling available to those in the group as well as victims.
“For us to sit in a courtroom to give our support to the victim and the victims family, for us to listen and hear the emotional reactions of all the victims and their family and listening to what they’ve gone through can become very strenuous on us as well,” Stacey said.
“We end up becoming emotionally attached to the victim as much as the victim becomes emotionally attached to us.”
One licensed trauma counsellor is the mother of one of the members in the Alberta chapter of the Bulldogs and offers services to any member across Canada.
“We take this very seriously. Even though it’s volunteer based, this is a job to us. This is more than a job to some of us. This is our lives now. We’ve changed everything that we were before and now this is our life, this is where we live,” Stacey said.
When the Bulldogs are not on manhunts or assisting victims, they like to reach out to the community.
The second annual meet and greet for the Penticton chapter of the Urban Bulldogs is on April 18 at Gyro Park and all are welcome to come out. The event will act as both the meet and greet and the celebration of the first anniversary of UBAKA coming to Canada.
“We’re just kind of combining that and we’re throwing in a kids party,” Stacey said.
The free to attend party will include a clown, DJ, face painting and while some of the acts are still being booked, the party hopes to include an acoustic kids musician as well.
“If anybody’s got kids bring them along and if people just want to come down and meet us and see what we’re about, we’re more than willing to talk to everybody about what’s going on and who we are,” Stacey said.
For those who are interested, UBAKA also holds a public meeting on the third Friday of every month. Anyone is welcome to join.