PITTSBURG — Pittsburg Police officers will be taking a different approach to patrolling downtown Pittsburg.
The Bike Patrol Unit has been around since the 1990s, but recently was revamped after many changes in the city, Bicycle Unit Coordinator and Patrol Sgt.Travis Bowman said.
In the past, people may have seen the police patrol on bikes at 4th of July Celebration and Little Balkans Days. The city plans to continue this “social approach” with the revamped unit.
“Around that time, there was a cultural shift at a national level that focused on a more community-oriented policing style, aptly dubbed C.O.P. (community oriented policing),” Bowman said. “In a nutshell, it involved getting engaged with your community to create partnerships with local businesses and community members in an effort to prevent crime before it starts.”
With many incentives, including Block 22 and other downtown renovations, the department looked for a way to “interact a little differently.”
According to a release, six officers have been appointed to serve on the unit “to provide proactive, community-based policing efforts.”
“One of the benefits of a bike patrol is community engagement,” Interim Chief of Police Brent Narges said. “Citizens are much more likely to interact with police officers on bikes than officers driving patrol vehicles.
“The department has already deployed this tactic while serving in a variety of capacities, while patrolling parades, festivals, and numerous other events, where community interaction is important.”
Funding for the unit came from the City’s public safety sales tax, enacted by Pittsburg voters in 2014, the release said. The fleet includes six new bikes,equipment and training for officers.
“These police officers will be specially trained and certified by the International Police Mountain Bike Association, and must maintain a fitness level to successfully complete quarterly assessments to join and remain on the team,” Narges said.
Currently, the officers are on special assignment patrolling parks, but will soon will be deployed “periodically to assist in property crime detection, and to patrol crime in case-specific regions of the city,” the release said.
According to Bowman and Narges there are barriers — both physical and social — which officers in patrol cars face. Bicycles are more able to cut through fields, properties and rough terrain, which offers tactical advantages to officers.
“Bicycle patrol officers are able to respond to the needs of the public while employing a more stealthy approach than their vehicular counterparts,” Narges said. “These bikes can maneuver through terrain inaccessible to the regular patrol fleet.
“These tactics are vital in detecting and apprehending crimes in progress.”
Bowman said officers patrolling on bicycles will be just as equipped as officers in patrol cars, with same gear on belts, and evidence, safety and repair kits. The officers can be recognized by their special uniforms which have polos with reflective lettering, along with a utility belt.
When downtown, Bowman said, he welcomes the community to wave and say hello.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.