Safe Routes Scoop

Rolling and Patrolling

 

Bicycle patrols have become an increasingly popular choice for police departments across the United States, including New Jersey. By creating closer and more frequent interaction with law enforcement, the public becomes more familiar with the officers responsible for their safety. Bicycle patrols emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s as an alternative to typical patrolling methods.

 

According to the International Police Mountain Bike Association (IPMBA,) bicycle patrols bridge the gap between automobiles and foot patrols (1). Unlike squad car patrols, officers on bikes can better use all of their senses, including smell and hearing, to detect suspicious activity and prevent crime. Additionally, a police officer on bike patrol travels twice as fast as an officer on foot, yet exerts only a third to a fifth of the amount of energy (2). Bicycles offer a cost advantage as well. They are substantially less expensive to purchase and maintain than a patrol car and often are donated. The bicycle’s advantages, including the ability to maneuver more easily and travel through small spaces and congested areas, can make a world of difference in enhancing the safety and health of a community and its quality of life.

 

Bicycle patrols are most commonly associated with congested urban areas. However, bicycle patrols can be effective in urban, suburban and

rural neighborhoods alike. Bicycles approach a suspicious or potentially dangerous situation virtually unnoticed. In addition, the IPMBA reports that “citizens are more likely to approach a bike patrol officer than even a neighborhood beat officer, optimizing community oriented or problem oriented policing efforts.” (3) While the foundation of a bicycle patrol is similar from place to place, functions can vary and often cater to the needs of the individual community.

 

Many communities throughout New Jersey have established bicycle patrol units to enhance relationships with local residents and provide a degree of flexibility not experienced in traditional automobile patrols. Two examples include the police departments of Ocean City and Colts Neck, which have incorporated bicycling into their patrol duties.

 

Ocean City

While highway and traffic control is best accomplished by officers in cars, patrolling by bicycle has been a highly effective method for community policing. Ocean City Police Lt. Steve Ang runs the city’s bike unit and finds the patrols have been successful in “breaking down barriers.” With a 2.5-mile boardwalk to police that is heavily trafficked by tourists and residents alike, bicycle patrols have allowed for easy navigation and improved interaction with both tourists and locals. Officers on bikes have been well received by

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