By John Suchocki, The Republican, July 30, 2014
Photo: 7-30-14 - Chicopee - Chicopee Poilce officer Ryan Romano along Exchange St. making the rounds on bike patrol for the summer under a reinstituted program by Chief William Jebb gives directions to Ron and Laura Maggio of Springfield. ( JOHN SUCHOCKI / THE REPUBLICAN )
CHICOPEE – Police officers are now getting out of their cruisers more and patrolling neighborhoods on foot and on bicycle and will soon be seen on motorcycles.
“What we want to foster is to have the officers make the connection with the community and have them help us,” Police Chief William Jebb said. “The cruiser is a barrier between the officers and the public.”
Within two weeks of being hired as chief, Jebb instituted the change. Bicycle patrols and walking beats have already started and motorcycle patrols are expected to begin later this week or next week.
The Police Department has had all three in the past but it has been at least five years since an officer patrolled on bike. Jebb said he had wanted to see more walking and biking patrols even before he was hired as chief, but resources had been allocated elsewhere.
“We have four officers who are properly trained (for bicycle patrols) and we are in the process of training additional officers,” he said. The department already owns the bicycles.
The bicycle patrols, which will mainly be seen on the first and second shifts, are starting in the downtown area where there are known problems with drug activity and vagrancy. As time passes they will be moved to anywhere they are needed, Jebb said.
“We are trying to use (crime statistics) to better police the community with the tools,” he said.
The bikes can also be used to keep an eye on the homeless camps downtown and set up along the Connecticut River in the Willimansett section. Without the bikes, the only way to reach to homeless camps in Willimansett were to have officers leave their cruisers and hike down a long trail, which takes time, Jebb said.
The officers will also be patrolling parks and school properties, especially those commonly hit by vandalism or have other problems, he said.
“First they are a public relations tool for a police and they have the mobility to go down alleyways, behind buildings and down in wooded areas,” Jebb said.
The walking patrols, which were once popular especially among downtown merchants, will start primarily in Chicopee Center and expand if there is a need in another location, he said.
The patrol officer will be stopping in to talk to downtown merchants as well as speaking to residents. Part of the idea is to hear from people who live or work in the area about any problems, Jebb said.
All officers receive training on community policing during in the Police Academy and additional training is provided internally, Jebb said.
The motorcycles are primarily used for traffic detail. The department currently owns three and there are five officers who are already trained to ride them, he said.