By John Crane, Danville Register & Bee, December 2, 2018
The Danville Police Department hopes to roll out a new bicycle patrol in the city by the spring.
A $33,274 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice will pay for bikes that will be used by police officers.
“Funds from this grant will be used to equip our officers with police bicycles that will enable them to more closely engage with our community,” Danville Police Chief Scott Booth wrote in a letter to Danville City Council. “Bicycles offer the advantage of street-level interaction with community members that is often missed in the isolated environment of a passing police car.”
Danville Police Maj. Timothy Jones said the grant will also cover equipment and training for the bicycle patrol officers. The department will determine later how many officers will be part of the patrol.
Jones agreed that having officers on bikes will help generate a closer relationship with the community.
“It’s just another tool we’re going to use to build trust,” Jones said, adding that it will be easier for the officers to stop and have a conversation with residents.
The department previously had a bike patrol in the 90s, but there was no training for it and the practice “went by the wayside,” Jones said.
Mayor Alonzo Jones said the bike patrol fits in with the department’s increased efforts toward youth engagement and the city’s focus on reducing violent crime.
It will encourage a better rapport between police officers and young people, especially when they’re both on bikes, Alonzo Jones said.
“It’s another avenue in which our young people can relate to our police officers,” the mayor said.
Community interaction with police officers is best when they’re out of their vehicles, said Danville City Manager Ken Larking.
“Having the opportunity for police officers to ride on bikes will allow them to be more approachable,” Larking said. “Children will be interested in the bikes and will want to come up and say hello. That provides the opportunity for a positive interaction with a police officer that otherwise may have not have happened.”
The grant is provided by the Department of Justice’s Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. It is named in honor of New York Police Officer Edward Byrne, who was killed in the line of duty on Feb. 26, 1988 while serving on detail that was protecting a witness who had agreed to testify against local drug dealers.