University Department of Public Safety officers begin bike patrols

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Starting this weekend, five Southeast Missouri State University Department of Public Safety officers are pedaling while patrolling the campus.

Department director Doug Richards said the new bicycle patrols will be in addition to the patrols on campus done by officers on foot and using cars.

Officers who will ride bicycles during the patrols -- which will be limited to day and evening shifts in the fall, spring and summer -- are already avid cyclists, Richards said, and actually conceived the idea of adding the patrols to the campus.

Officer Barry Meadows said he and the other four officers who will conduct the patrols believe bicycles will make campus police more approachable to students.

"We thought it would be a great way to get out and get closer to our kids," he said. "When we are in cars, they seem to be less likely to come up to us, and a lot of the time we could give them opportunities to learn more about campus and what's going on."

Many universities with bicycle patrols, such as the University of Missouri-Columbia, report that the presence of officers on bicycles help keep campus crime down and foster a friendly relationship between students and campus security. Southeast officers have been working with the University of Missouri-Columbia on training for the patrols. Meadows and officer Bryan McCain will travel to Columbia on Monday to learn riding techniques such as going up and down stairs and jumping curbs.

More access

Richards said the advantages to using the patrols will include the ability of officers to expand their patrol areas to spaces next to buildings and passages that aren't large enough to patrol with cars. Officers will be able to cover larger areas in less time and response time to some incidents could be reduced because of the way the officers can access more areas of campus.

Officers will also be able to use the bicycles to more easily patrol and conduct crowd control at parades, sporting events and other large-scale campus events, such as residence hall move-in days, which Meadows said due to excessive traffic can sometimes be "a nightmare" for officers in patrol cars.

Southeast's hilly campus may not be as conducive to bicycle patrols as some campuses, but Meadows said the officers who will do the patrols are in good physical shape and have already been practicing riding the landscape.

"We are actually really looking forward to doing it some more. I actually think a whole other aspect of it is that it promotes fitness," he said.

Using bicycles may also save the department some money by reducing wear and tear on patrol cars, according to Richards.

Officers will wear helmets and shirts that identify them as university police, according to a news release.

Two bicycles specially equipped for police use no longer needed by the Cape Girardeau Police Department were donated to the department of public safety for its officers.

eragan@semissourian.com

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