Visiting officers nab ill-timed street thief
Sun, May 5, 2002
By JOEY HAWS
OGDEN -- Stealing is never a good idea, but when there are dozens of extra police on the streets for an international law enforcement conference, it's an even worse idea.
Saturday around 1:30 p.m. a man attempted to steal a $750 tray of jewelry from a street vendor along 25th Street. The vendor yelled for help.
"We heard someone screaming "Thief, thief, stop him!" and looked up, and the owner was running about 30-yards behind the guy," said officer Frank Zdankiewicz, a resident of Woodhaven, Mich.
Several out-of-town officers were washing their bikes when they heard the vendor's cries, saw the thief and sprang into action.
Officer Louann Hamblin, from the VanBuren Township near Ann Arbor, Mich., outran two of her colleagues, caught up to the suspect and knocked him into a brick wall. She slapped some cuffs on the suspect and waited until Ogden officers stepped in. The suspect was booked into the Weber County Jail on suspicion of theft.
Hamblin and Zdankiewicz are two of approximately 250 officers from across the country, plus a few officers from Switzerland and Great Britain, who are attending the 12th annual Police on Bikes Convention of the Baltimore-based International Police Mountain Bike Association scheduled to officially begin Thursday.
In the meantime, dozens of officers are already in town and will be participating in a myriad of hands-on training courses that will be very visible to the public in the downtown Ogden area.
"There will be fully-uniformed bike cops racing around all over town," Ogden community police officer Eric Young said.
The conference, which is here because of a bid submitted a few years ago by Ogden police officials, will consist of more than 40 in-class workshops taught by some of the top bike patrol experts in the nation. Officers can also choose between five training courses and 18 on-bike training classes.
Maureen Becker, executive director of the association, said though Ogden is one of the smaller areas the conference has been in, the location is a perfect training site for officers to fine-tune their biking skills because of the large selection of off-road trails in the mountains.
"Off-road riding sharpens and hones your street riding skills, so many of the officers have been taking advantage of the mountain trails," Becker said.
One of the premiere courses began Saturday covering the intricacies of a rapid response bike team. This class was taught by seven original and current members of the Los Angeles Police Department Central Division Bicycle Rapid Response Team.
This 36-person team was first introduced as a pilot project during the Democratic National Convention in August of 2000 and proved to be a huge asset for crowd control and escort during the convention that saw scores of political protesters.
Ogden Police Department"s bike patrol program isn"t nearly as extensive as Los Angeles" unit, but it is still perfect for the unique needs of the department.
"Our bike officers have been invaluable in helping during narcotics cases," Ogden police Lt. Dan Greenhalgh said. "The bikes are smaller and very quiet and can go places people don"t expect. So there is an element of surprise with using a bike patrol."
Currently the Ogden Police Department has eight community police officers assigned to bike patrol in the eight geographical areas of the city. Greenhalgh said that though there are only a few officers who are currently assigned to community policing bike patrols, the department has nearly 20 bike-certified officers.
Officers are required to be first-responders for calls that dispatchers send a regular patrol officer to. Their job is to be a visible icon community residents can feel comfortable approaching and to deal with potential problems between neighbors that could escalate into something more serious.
Bike patrols are also cost effective, with 10 to 15 bike officers being able to be fully outfitted for the cost of one patrol car, according to statistics from the IPMBA. Bike patrols can travel faster and farther that foot patrols and are useful as a public relations tool.
Copyright ©2002, Ogden Publishing Corporation
(reprinted with permission)