Sikeston police bike patrols build community links

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Standard Democrat

SIKESTON, Mo. -- For police here, riding bicycles on the job might save some money spent on gasoline, but it is more about making a connection with the community.

"The main thing is, it is a very community-oriented type of policing because it allows you to get out and get more personal and close with the community," said DARE officer Keith Hente, who does bicycle patrols with school resource officer Joey Henry.

It's paid for by a Community Oriented Policing Services grant from the federal government, and Sikeston has had the patrols for six years.

With their assignments, Henry and Hente get to know many young people during the school year, "and then during the summer time while out on our bikes they see us, holler at us, we stop and ask how their summers are going, spend some time with them out of the school atmosphere. It's a chance to keep that relationship and keep building on what we started in the schools."

Officers on bicycles are much more approachable not only for students but for those running businesses and other members of the community.

"We get a lot of not only kids but also older people that stop us and tell us 'thanks' for riding around and patrolling the area," Hente said. "They really appreciate the riding we do and being in the area." "It goes back to the old cops on the beat on foot," Porter said. "It gets the officer out in the community. And the community really seems to like the idea of officers out on the bikes." The program usually starts with the warm weather sometime in spring, according to Porter. "They normally ride them on and off up until Halloween," she said.

The department has a half-dozen bicycles for the program, "so at any give time you could see six officers out on a bike," said Sgt. Shirley Porter, who oversees the program.

Traffic tickets?

For the most part, those on bike patrol don't write traffic tickets, Porter said. But that doesn't mean officers on bikes won't do a vehicle stop.

"They can go ahead and issue the citation," Porter said.

Bicycles are actually a better vehicle for officers pursuing pedestrians or other bicyclists.

"We may see things and catch things on the bicycles that an officer in a patrol car may not see or hear," Hente said.

Also, officers on bikes can often ride up and get closer to situations to see what is going on before being spotted "and we can catch them in the act," he said.

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