Monday, September 1, 2008

Biking the beat

More and more police departments are putting cops on bikes to save gas money, reports The Roanoke Times. While this might be something with new emphasis in the wake of $4 a gallon gas, it certainly isn't new to all police departments.
Officers on bicycles have many other advantages in community-based law enforcement. Officers get to know people in various neighborhood, keep their fingers on the pulse of what is happening, and build a relationship between the department and people on the street. Another plus, an officer on a bike can cut through traffic jams and be more stealthy, perhaps shortening response time and allowing him to come upon illegal activity unnoticed.
There are downsides to police on bikes. Obviously, they can't catch a crook fleeing at high speed nor can they cuff the guy and put him in the back seat. The amount of "police gear" they can carry is limited. Older officers, or those not in fairly good shape, may feel discriminated against. And not all terrain (think about Lynchburg's or Staunton's hills) is conducive to bicycle patrols. Ditto the outlying rural areas - but some residential areas and villages in our counties might be good targets for two-wheelin' cops. Outfit the cruiser with a bike rack, park in the middle of the village and make the rounds via bike. I like it!
On balance, I think police should use more bike patrols in our cities and towns of the Shenandoah Valley. A little more Mayberry would be a good thing.

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