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With the advent of warm weather, the City of Sylvania’s police department is helping officers shed their cars in exchange for agile mountain bikes to patrol communities.
Patrolman Alan Beadle watched five patrolmen gracefully weave between orange cones set-up in a parking lot at Veteran’s Memorial Field in Sylvania.
Affiliated with departments in the northwest Ohio region, the patrolmen were practicing bike riding skills before taking a test to wrap up their Police Mountain Bike Training.
Mr. Beadle, certified by the International Police Mountain Bike Association, has conducted bike training courses since 2001. He said that some police duties can be performed more effectively by bike than car.
“People can see a patrol car from a mile away, but on a bike an officer can be unnoticeable,” he said.
For example, he said, several years ago the city experienced a rash of car thefts. A group of Sylvania police on bike patrolled the neighborhood, and were able to sneak up on the suspect at night.
The mountain bikes, manufactured specifically for patrolman, each costing $700 to $1,000, are installed with a silent hub so no clicking is made when officers switch gears.
The Sylvania Police Department has six mountain bikes and 10 officers certified for bike duty. Officers can patrol the neighborhood on weather permitting days, such as a snow-free December evening. An increased bike presence patrols the area on a daily basis from May 1 to Aug. 31.
Although the department has not done a cost-savings analysis, Sylvania Sgt. Stacey Pack said that the department saves on gas and on vehicle wear and tear costs. It also is a free public relations tool because officers are more likely to interact with citizens during their riding.
Sergeant Pack said she sometimes takes the midnight bike shift to catch car thieves in the act. "It's my favorite thing to do," she said.
Before Mr. Beadle became a certified bike officer in 1997, patrolman on bikes were used mainly to promote the department at community events. But in the years, the department uses bike patrol for crime prevention.
The Sylvania Police Department has nine active bike patrol officers, and sergeants and captains are certified to patrol on bikes. Some of them will patrol the annual St. Joseph’s Festirama which begins Friday. “We have our officers prepared and trained for it,” Mr. Beadle said.
Another event patrolled by bike is the annual fireworks at Centennial Terrace. Overseeing the crowds by bike allows police to easily swerve between the 30,000 that attend, and also to weave between the cars that are usually gridlocked after the display has ended.
Andy Mulinix, a patrolman with the Bowling Green Police Division, said that riding a bike is a different experience in law enforcement. For a city like Bowling Green that has a walking and biking culture, a bike is useful.
“This is an easy way to get around the city and to communicate with people in the community,” he said. With his completed training this week, he will join an established police patrol in the city.
Tim Monhollen, a patrolman with the Defiance Police Department, said his department also thinks a bike is a tool for community outreach and that officers are more approachable by bike.
In Ottawa Hills, Patrolman Jason Schaetzke will be one of the first officers bringing back a bike force to the department.
“Our chief wants us to have a bike presence,” he said. He said the department had a bike force several years ago and the administration now plans to revive it.
The 40-hour course costs $100 per person and includes instruction on basic bike riding, shifting, braking ,and being safe on the road. The police also learn specialized techniques for implementing a firearm while riding, how to ride up and down stairs in a criminal pursuit, and other crime prevention tactics.
Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello: 419-206-0356 or firstname.lastname@example.org.