TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Child abuse is on the rise in Arizona. There are hard facts coming from the Arizona Department of Economic Security.
Child Protective Services reports a 15% jump in child abuse investigations in 2012 -- bringing the number to nearly 40-thousand per year.
That surge, combined with budget cuts, explains why CPS remains overwhelmed. The average caseload for CPS workers now exceeds 180 percent of the national standard. This crisis is one reason an unruly-looking group is using its tough image to help kids feel safe in Pima County.
They roar down the roads wearing leather vests, heavy boots -- with road names like Lightening, Pipes, and Halo -- used for security reasons.
They make a big scary show for a reason. They consider themselves "keepers of the children." Their logo, Bikers Against Child Abuse, is proudly displayed on their backs and bikes.
"Outlaw" joined the group after a family member abused his 7 year old daughter. "She was scared to death. They came around and just empowered her. Empowered her to be a kid again. It was awesome," he said in tears.
When a child feels threatened or scared -- these intimidating guardians will ride over and stand guard outside their homes -- all night if they have to. "Wings" is a BACA mom -- two of her children were abused. "My oldest child would get up in the middle of the night and check the doors to make sure the doors were locked," she said. "Even though the perpetrator was in jail. He was afraid he was going to come and get us."
And if the children have to testify in court, the bikers shift the balance of power by escorting them in -- sending a strong signal to the perpetrator. "Pipes" is the AZ chapter president. "If we can put a bunch of us on their side, it evens out the playing field where their perpetrators have been intimidating them. Well they usually stops once they know we're involved," he said.
"Pipes" said a BACA child is 4 times more likely to testify because their fears are gone.
They are given road names too and are told they're BACA kids for life. "These are our brothers these are our sisters and now that you're a part of our family. You've become a little sister or a little brother," said "Harmony".
And the kids know bikers take care of their own.
Every BACA member is a volunteer and must undergo an extensive background check. The group works with CPS, the Prosecutor's offices and various state agencies.
The non-profit has more than 160 chapters in five countries.
Click here for the BACA's Pima County Chapter