by Joe Szydlowski, Scripps Media, Redding Record Searchlight, August 8, 2014
REDDING, California - Redding police officers are taking to bicycles to patrol downtown Redding and Hilltop Drive a few days a week, said Sgt. Brian Barner, head of the department’s traffic division.
The department started the bike patrol July 29 and Chief Robert Paoletti announced the program at his crime town hall the following day.
The officers connect with residents and business owners in downtown and on Hilltop Drive, creating a kind of “neighborhood police unit,” Barner said.
But that means there’s a trade-off — the bike officers have been moved from the traffic division during their bike routes two days a week. During that time, they can’t work on traffic enforcement and crashes, leaving those duties to patrol officers.
“Guys in police cars are responding to calls for service,” Barner said. “We’re on a bike doing proactive enforcement, contacting the business community, people that are out, and resolving any issues that they say they’re having.”
He noted at least one traffic officer will remain on duty even while the other officers are out on bikes.
They also can’t respond to major incidents outside of the area, Barner said.
But the community connection has already appeared for Hilltop Drive businessman Dennis Morgan.
“It’s awesome. I love it,” he said.
Morgan said he flagged down officers at his business, Banner Real Estate, over a broken-down van that had sat on an empty lot for years.
It had become a regular hangout for transients, he said. The crowd made workers nervous, and he asked officers to check it out, he said.
“(The officer) went over to the van, ran them out and called the owners of the van, told the owners of the van to tow it away within a week,” Morgan said.
On Thursday, officers towed the van, filled with drug paraphernalia and trash, Barner said.
The idea of bike officers is appealing to Jason Schlange, 33, who’s co-owner of R&R Meats downtown. But he doesn’t want it to impede traffic enforcement and crashes.
Officers decide which areas to patrol in the neighborhoods, using information from the communities to find problems, Barner said. Caldwell, Library and South City Park are some areas officers are looking at.
They went through South City Park on Tuesday, making six arrests, giving nine citations and contacting 13 businesses. The citations were mainly for alcohol possession in public while arrests were for warrants and drug possession.
“People don’t expect to see a cop on a bike, so you can roll right up on them,” he said.