By Kimberly Barker, Joplin Globe, June 27, 2018
PITTSBURG, Kan.― The Pittsburg Police Department is revamping its long-established bicycle patrol unit in an effort to expand its coverage and community involvement.
The unit has been an extension of the department since the 1990s, but because of limited funds, it was unable to operate fully over the years — until now. With the passage of the city’s public safety sales tax by voters in 2014, funds are now available for the bike unit.
“We were able to update our fleet with six new bikes and provide officers with necessary training and equipment,” interim Chief Brent Narges said in a statement. “These police officers will be specially trained and certified by the International Police Mountain Bike Association and must maintain a fitness level to successfully complete quarterly assessments to join and remain on the team.”
Officers must complete an obstacle course, agility course and meet the preset requirements for consideration. After being appointed to the team, officers are provided with Trek 29-inch bikes and wear similar equipment to the regular patrol fleet.
Patrol Sgt. Travis Bowman serves as the bicycle unit coordinator and has been a member of the part-time team for several years. The bike unit is a supplemental effort that corresponds with the regular patrol fleet and is basically case specific, he said.
“If the detectives generate a hot spot for property crime or some sort of need where they don’t think the vehicular fleet can approach it as successfully, they’ll give us the go ahead, and we can go out at night,” Bowman added.
Bowman explained that the unit is perfect for policing special events such as the Little Balkans Festival or parades. The bikes also allow the officers to have more accessibility and speed in areas that hinders the patrol cars.
“Bicycle patrol officers are able to respond to the needs of the public while employing a more stealthy approach than their vehicular counterparts,” Narges said in a statement. “These bikes can maneuver through terrain inaccessible to the regular patrol fleet. These tactics are vital in detecting and apprehending crimes in progress.”
The long-term goal is to have a full-time bike unit that focuses on the Block 22 project, which is boasting about 100 student apartments and multiple restaurants in four converted downtown buildings. Those apartments will be occupied come August.
“With the success that Block 22 is expected to have, we were hoping to have more involvement with the downtown businesses,” Bowman said. “Since it’s going to be quite an increase in residential traffic through there, we thought we’d be more frequent in the neighborhood to increase security. Downtown is going to change, and we’re hoping to stay ahead of it.”
The Pittsburg police bike unit currently is assigned to city parks, but the department intends to deploy the team systematically to patrol crime in specific regions in the city and to assist in property crime detection.