By Brittney Markert, Grand Junction Free Press, July 30, 2014
Photo: Grand Junction police officers hit up the Mesa County Fairground's BMX track to test out their riding skills.
Officer Matt Koch moved from Indiana two years ago to join the Grand Junction Police Department. Since then he has often used a bicycle to patrol the city.
“It’s nice because you can ride around more stealthily than in cars,” he said. “You also hear a lot more going on,” like domestic fights, or smell illegal substances more easily.
Since the 1990s, Grand Junction Police Department has been using bikes as another way to patrol and maneuver throughout the city, on top of more traditional car patrolling.
“We canvas the whole city, from 29 Road to Riverside Parkway and even Canyon View Park,” GJPD officer Charles Rojo said, with a focus on downtown during events like farmers’ markets.
Approximately 25 GJPD officers ditch four wheels and take to two for patrol each week.
“A lot of officers do special assignments to watch a house with drug use present and use bikes to contact people coming from it,” Rojo added. “It’s much easier to catch someone who is running away on foot while riding a bike.”
He also explained that although a car is a fast way of transportation, a bike is able to patrol an area more easily. Plus, danger is no more present on a bike than in a car.
“Especially at night, we are more in tuned with the city,” Rojo said. “You miss out on a lot when in a vehicle.”
Grand Junction isn’t the only police force to utilize bike patrol. Fruita police departments has utilized for over 10 years as a tool to patrol as well.
Palisade also has a police bike team. Palisade police chief Tony Erickson said he reactivated the bicycle patrol program in 2013 to promote higher police-force visibility.
“We predominately use the bikes during festivals or special-activity patrol,” Erickson said, adding that his department recently obtained two new bikes for the program.
According to GJPD public information officer Kate Porras, officers on bikes are seen as more approachable, which is a benefit to community outreach. And those assigned to patrol on bikes receive a two- to three-day training session to hone bike-safety skills.
“We like to utilize all the tools for effective and efficient patrolling and this is a good tool for them,” she noted.
Koch added that people flag officers down more easily when they’re on bicycles and conversations can be “a little more personal.”
“It’s very effective, proactive and community oriented ...” Rojo said. “We as a community are lucky to have a police department that utilizes this great tool.