By Cody Dulaney, the News Chief, LEDGER MEDIA GROUP
Published: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:11 p.m.
DAVENPORT | The Davenport Police Department is experimenting with bike patrol and has borrowed a mountain bike at no cost from the Lake Wales Police Department.
"One of our core responsibilities is to constantly strive to find methods that will reduce crime, and improve the quality of life for our citizens," Davenport Chief of Police Larry Holden said.
Lake Wales Deputy Chief Troy Schulze said his department has been using bike patrols for about 15 years and has recognized it as an effective tool for the community.
"It's all about community relations," Schulze said. "With us exposed and not sitting in an enclosed car, it makes people more comfortable to approach and speak with officers."
Bike patrols also are used during parades and large gatherings, allowing officers to maneuver through large, congested areas quickly, Schultze said.
The ability to approach criminals by surprise also offers an alternate crime-fighting tool for officers.
"Without the noise from an engine or squealing brakes on a cruiser, officers will be able to sneak right up on people if we have to," Holden said.
Schulze agreed, saying an officer on bike patrol recently was able to sneak up on and arrest a few people smoking marijuana in public.
The Davenport police will use the bike for one month and evaluate its effectiveness through community engagement and response time on calls, Holden said.
Fully equipped police mountain bikes would cost the department about $1,500 each, which includes training.
Officers will be required to complete a 40-hour training course, which covers making an arrest, making traffic stops and firing a weapon while on bike patrol, Holden said.
There are still some concerns about feasibility regarding staffing for the small department, which has nine sworn officers, Holden said. Two officers are required to be on patrol at all times, one of whom would have to be in a car.
However, bike patrol at night requires three officers; one officer in a car and two on bikes for back-up purposes.
But the officers in Davenport have borrowed only one bike, therefore committing officers to the daytime as an experiment.
"It does have its limitations," Holden said of bike patrol, "but we are looking at it as an additional tool for now, and if it works, we will look at arranging the necessary funds to buy our own."