By Sandra Emerson, Redlands Daily Facts, July 31, 2014
Photo: Officer Brad Grantz chats with a young resident, Ryan Becker, 1, Tuesday in downtown Redlands.Rick Sforza — Staff photographer
REDLANDS >> When policing a city, sometimes two wheels can be better than four.
The Redlands Police Department has expanded its bicycle patrol to address enforcement issues in downtown.
“When you remove the barrier of a patrol vehicle we get to just talk to people way more than when we’re on the bike,” said Redlands Police Officer Brad Grantz, who also rode a bicycle for the San Bernardino Police Department. “I think people feel you’re approachable on a bike.”
About 11 officers are trained to patrol on bike. Officers patrol the downtown area on mountain bikes in day and evening shifts.
Another advantage of patrolling on bike is the ability to get into the alleys, parks and other tight spaces in downtown that a vehicle cannot get into, Grantz said.
The shifts are currently overtime shifts, so they are not daily.
On Tuesday, Grantz and fellow police officer Jaimeson Liu patrolled downtown. When not patrolling on a bike, both officers spend their shifts patrolling town in a black and white.
During their Tuesday shift, they apprehended a suspect wanted on parole violations.
Loitering, public drinking, smoking, panhandling are among numerous quality of life crimes officers can better address while on a bike.
“When you’re pulling up the street in a black-and-white vehicle they pretty much get up, walk away and we have no idea where they went before we even get to them,” Liu said. “With a bike we’re not as noticeable. When we’re driving down the street they just assume it’s somebody on a bike and we pull up and they’re like, ‘Oh it’s the police.’”
Without the safety of being inside a vehicle, bicycle patrol officers need to be more aware of vehicles and even dogs in some parts of town, Grantz said.
“Cars are probably the single biggest thing to watch out for,” he said. “That’s just part of the training to be aware. Your job is to avoid the cars. It’s not necessarily their job to avoid you.”
They also need to be more aware when approaching the public, Liu said.
“You don’t want to get too close right away,” Liu said. “If you get too close you have to get off the bike, put down the kickstand and approach. You want to be able to pay attention at all times to what you’re doing.”
Certification to become a bicycle officer requires up to 40 hours of physical training, health and nutrition information, tactical skills such as riding up and down stairs, cone patterns and crowd control.
The patrols help to maintain Redlands historic downtown as a desirable destination for residents and visitors, said Redlands Police Chief Mark A. Garcia in a city news release.
“The Redlands Police Department is committed to working with all members of the community to find the best solutions to enhance the safety of our city,” he said. “Having officers on bicycles provides not only a visible presence in the downtown, but it also gives those officers a unique perspective on the specific issues in that area.”
The bicycle patrols supplement regular patrols and are focused primarily in an area between Pearl Avenue on the north and Olive Avenue on the south; Eureka Street on the west and Sixth Street on the east.