by Neil Gallivan, PCI #699, EMSCI #147
New York State Police
Bikes are an important part of this story, but it is first necessary to set the stage. For the past several years, the New York State Police has sponsored the IPMBA Police Cyclist course for all agencies in the Rochester area, and numerous Rochester officers have completed the course. The cycling relationship with the Rochester PD began in 1999, when they provided the initial training for nine troopers over a two year period, which ultimately led to the formation of the Troop "E" Bike Patrol.
For the past several years, Rochester had seen an increase in violent crime, shootings and homicides, all directly tied to the drug trade. Due to limited resources, the Rochester Police Chief requested help from the Monroe County Sheriffs Office and the New York State Police. All three agencies enjoy a very close, efficient and productive working relationship, the likes of which is seldom seen. In October of 2002, a joint detail was formed, in which city officers from the Tactical Unit partnered up with deputies and troopers to patrol the area known as the "Fatal Crescent", where the vast majority of violent crimes were occurring. This detail, which lasted for six weeks, was an overwhelming success. By the end of the detail, there had been a significant decrease in shootings, stabbings, robberies, and homicides. There was also a noticeable positive change in the targeted neighborhoods.
After the detail ended, however, the violence slowly returned, and even increased in some categories. This situation was not unique to Rochester, and in 2004, the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, which oversees all criminal justice agencies in New York, along with other agencies, developed a program called "Operation Impact". This program was targeted at the 15 counties outside of New York City that accounted for 80% of the violent crimes in New York State. Administrative, financial and logistical support was provided, and various cities and counties began to develop plans to implement the program. Rochester was already way ahead of the curve because of the 2002 detail. The program was run for four weeks in April, five weeks in June/July and three weeks in October, with bike patrols used during the July and October details.
Over the past two years, several members of the Rochester PD Tactical Unit have completed the IPMBA Police Cyclist (PC) Course, including one of the unit supervisors. During the PC Course, the potential value of bike patrols during the Impact details was discussed in great detail. These ideas were brought back to the Tactical Unit Lieutenant and Captain, and the bike patrols were incorporated into the operational plan. The July detail differed from the previous two, in that the manpower was greatly increased and a day shift was added to maintain a constant presence in the high crime areas.
The manpower assigned consisted of 30 troopers, 10 deputies, and 60 RPD officers, along with sergeants and lieutenants from all three agencies. The day crew consisted of 40, including 4-6 bike patrols, and the night shift was 60, including two bike patrols. Bikes were used on the day shift more often than night because of the availability of trained officers. On the day shift, all the bike officers usually rode together. The five bikes cruising the high crime areas proved to be an unstoppable force. Almost immediately after hitting the streets, the drug arrests began. As most bike cops know, it is possible to practically ride right up to the dealers before they know you're there, and they did just that. By using alleys and cuts, they infiltrated the open-air drug markets with ease, and the arrests began piling up.
The very first day shift began with a flurry of drug arrests, causing the supervisor, also on a bike, to state that they could easily have continued to make more arrests, but they ran out of cars in which to put the bad guys. This success continued throughout the detail, on both the day and night shifts. The riding skills and patrol tactics taught in the PC course proved invaluable when combined with the experience of the troopers and RPD officers. Due to manpower constraints, the Monroe County Sheriffs Department could not provide bike-trained deputies in addition to the manpower already assigned to the detail. However, over the past few years they have been very proactive in assigning deputies to the IPMBA PC Courses, and are using the bikes in an ever-expanding capacity including patrol, special events and airport security at the Rochester International Airport.
During the July detail, the day shift put bike patrols out 2-3 days per week, while the night shift usually averaged two nights per week. Due to scheduling and operational issues, it wasn't possible to put bike patrols out every shift. The focus of the patrols in July was proactive patrolling in the high crime, drug sales areas. They were also used during warrant executions to cover possible escape routes, traffic enforcement details, surveillance, and crowd control in the entertainment district.
During the October detail, bikes were used most nights for the first two weeks. The focus of the bike patrols in October was primarily robbery suppression details. In the entertainment district, where patrons park on unlit side streets, alleys, and unsecured lots due to limited parking, there was a spike in robberies as people were walking to and from their cars.
During the detail, 2-4 bikes patrolled this area. The bikes proved very effective, as not one robbery occurred during their patrols. Unfortunately, they weren't able to catch the bad guys, and the robberies continued after the patrols were gone. On Halloween weekend, the large crowds, warm weather, standstill traffic and an abundance of alcohol led to a very high volume of calls for service for the foot patrols assigned to the area.
The bikes supplemented these officers by handling many of these calls, as they were able to easily get through traffic. The traffic actually assisted the bike officers with issuing numerous tickets, and making arrests for drinking in cars, DWI's, marijuana possession, and various other transgressions. While traffic was at a standstill, the bike officers would simply ride slowly past and around the cars, giving them a clear view of what was going on inside.
During both details, the bikes were very well received by the community. As with other bike details, the area residents and patrons were very interested in the bikes. They were especially impressed with seeing Rochester Police Officers and State Troopers as bike patrol partners. They asked many questions, made many positive comments, and offered thanks on a regular basis.
As a side note, a large percentage of the riding in the PC courses is done in done in and around the City of Rochester. During the night class, the entire class rides through the high crime neighborhoods to get to the training area. The initial community reaction to seeing 15-20 bike cops from multiple agencies riding through the neighborhood was a little bit of shock, but during the last three PC courses, many people actually applauded as we rode through, surprising us as much as we surprised them.
Following are a few examples of the effectiveness of the bike patrols during Operation Impact.
During one day shift, two troopers and three RPD officers rode up on five subjects suspected of selling crack. Using their training, they positioned themselves in a contact/cover formation. True to form, one of the subjects took off on a bike…like he had a chance. One bike officer was positioned to force him to ride through yards and behind a house while being followed by another bike officer. All five used good communications and positioning, and when the bad guy tried to make it to the street, he rode right into the other four bike officers, who welcomed him with handcuffs. He turned out to be the one holding the crack for the others to sell.
The night shift patrols were also active right away when they located several individuals smoking crack behind an abandoned house. They made numerous traffic stops, one of which led to an arrest for 19 bags of marijuana, and located a subject who had an outstanding warrant. Another night they stopped a dirt bike riding on the sidewalk which led to the arrest of the operator for two counts of felony drug possession after they found a quantity of crack packaged for sale; made numerous traffic stops leading to the arrest of a warrant suspect; located and recovered a stolen vehicle; and seized a tow truck that nearly struck them and had switched VIN plates.
On yet another night shift, they continued with numerous traffic stops and tickets issued, and made several marijuana arrests. During one stop, they observed a van approaching their location. When the operator realized who they were, he threw the van into reverse and took off. He lost control, crashed, and all occupants fled on foot before the officers could clear their stop. However, they left behind a stolen van and a bag full of burglar's tools.
Responding to more complaints of open-air drug sales in the Scio Street area, a two-man team patrolled the area, making numerous traffic stops, including one for no seatbelt, which led to the arrest of the operator and passenger for possessing 35 bags of crack.
The day shift usually put out a bike patrol consisting of Tprs. Mike Page and Dave Bast, Sgt. Efrain Gonzales, and Officers Al Santiago and Don McKeeby. They, along with Tpr. Al Horst and Officer Paul Romano on the night shift, have focused efforts on the Scio/Lewis and Scio/Weld areas due to heavy drug activity and citizen complaints. During one day shift, RPD Chief Robert Duffy joined the bike patrol during a drug enforcement detail. A spotter was used and very shortly he observed a drug transaction take place. He radioed the bike detail and they quickly apprehended the suspect as he re-entered his car. $1,641 was discovered in the vehicle. The spotter then called Sgt. Gonzalez and advised him that a second subject was leaving the rear of the target house. Sgt. Gonzalez and Chief Duffy quickly apprehended him. During the interview, he admitted to being involved in a drug transaction with the first subject, who sold him crack. A subsequent search uncovered 50 bags of crack on him and another 62 grams of crack in his house. He was charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance 2nd and 3rd and Criminally Using Drug Paraphernalia 2nd. During the investigation, the first subject bolted from the officers and took off in his car. No pursuit was initiated because 1) they were on bikes and 2) he left his license and registration with the investigating officers. A warrant for his arrest is being obtained.
During another day shift, Trooper Mike Page and Officer Don McKeeby were on patrol when they saw a suspect wanted for Assault 1st after he shot another person over a drug dispute. The victim was not expected to live, and more charges were pending. He was apprehended before he had a chance to run. Trooper Dave Bast and Officer Al Santiago observed drug activity and were able to ride up and arrest two subjects for possessing a quantity of crack, one of which was felony weight.
Officers McKeeby and Santiago, along with Tprs Bast and Page, were investigating drug activity involving several subjects, including one who decided he could outrun the bikes. He was wrong. The investigation led to four subjects arrested for various drug related charges and one for an outstanding warrant, as well as the seizure of nine bags of crack
Throughout the details, approximately 412 man-hours of bike patrol led to approximately
- 20 felony arrests
- 88 misdemeanor and violation arrests
- 24 warrant arrests
- 235 traffic tickets issued
- four recovered stolen vehicles
- 240 corners cleared
- over 100 grams of crack and over 350 grams of marijuana seized.
Some lessons learned during this detail include:
- The need to keep statistics separately for the bike patrols;
- The importance of having an operational plan for the bikes rather than just sending them out to ride around;
- The value of having a supervisor riding with the bike patrols (for this type of detail it proved to be important); and
- The need for the dispatch center to know that the unit is a bike patrol, and providing adequate patrol (car) support for the bikes.
On the training side, we had the luxury of having all those who rode during this detail, both troopers and officers, attend the IPMBA PC Courses with each other prior to the detail. This was a huge benefit because they all had the same training and knew they could count on each other no matter what they were involved with. Those who participated in this detail were Rochester PD members Chief Bob Duffy, Sgt. Efrain Gonzalez, and Officers Al Santiago, Don McKeebe, Paul Romano, and Charlie Burgoone. Riding for the New York State Police were Lt. Neil Gallivan and Troopers Dave Bast, Mike Page, and Al Horst.
It is important to note that the bike patrol was only a small portion of Operation Impact. The entire detail was so successful not only because of the hard work of all the officers, deputies and troopers who worked the detail, but also because of the support it received from Chief Robert Duffy, Captain Bob Johansson, Lt. Tony Perez and Sgt. Efrain Gonzalez of the Rochester PD, and Major Steve White and Captain Frank Coots of the New York State Police. There were many other supervisors, officers, deputies and troopers that put in long, hard hours to support this effort. One last note of thanks goes out to all the IPMBA trainers, instructors, members, and support staff that have helped me in the past few years. The success of the bike patrol component of this detail is directly connected to the skills, knowledge and support passed on by you. Thanks, and stay safe.
Neil has been with the NYSP for 16 years and is currently a Uniform Lieutenant in Troop E, which covers 10 counties in western New York. He helped establish the Troop E Bike Patrol in 2001, and is the member in charge of the bike patrol and marine patrol for Troop E. He has been an IPMBA member since 2002. He is actively involved in PC and bike in-service training for several agencies in the area and is currently helping establish two more bike patrol units for local police agencies within Troop E.
© 2005 IPMBA. This article appeared in the Spring 2005 issue of IPMBA News.