Short-term gas shortage shows need for bicycle cops in small towns

By Lauren Lanmon, KXAN, September 3, 2017

WIMBERLEY, Texas (KXAN) – If you’re looking to visit or travel through Wimberley in the near future, you should be on the lookout for more deputies riding bicycles. Along with their current fleet of trucks, the Precinct 3 Hays County Constable is hoping to add certified bicycle cops.

Wimberley is a town of less than 3,000 people and doesn’t have its own police station. The city primarily depends on constable deputies and the Hays County Sheriff’s Department to respond during emergencies.

The city is nestled in the Hill Country and is surrounded by rough terrain, so not many would expect a deputy to be riding a bicycle. However, Constable Ray Helm says these deputies will focus inside town where they are needed.

“Sometimes downtown will get extremely congested, it could take a long time for our big trucks to get through the traffic if there was an emergency. These guys on their bikes can get there within 20 seconds,” said Helm. “They can access different parts of the city trucks can’t.”

Deputy Cody Cheatham will be going through the certification program this week. Cheatham has already started patrolling the downtown area on his bicycle and says everything has been smooth.

“People are loving the fact that we are actually out here on these bikes,” said Cheatham. “My response time can be within a few seconds to a minute or two.”

Helm says the bicycles are particularly helpful in situations the city has seen lately with gas stations running out of fuel.

“I always thought just in case a situation of fuel issues and a fast response time to some of the hard to get spots in downtown. Some said it was not needed. Well the last few days it has been a blessing,” Helm wrote on the Hays County Constable Pct. 3 Facebook Page.

As tempers flared at the pumps over the weekend, Helm says his deputies were able to respond easily by avoiding the traffic lined up. He also adds it could save the department money.

“They reserve fuel in our vehicles,” said Helm. “When they are out patrolling seven, eight hours each a day, they aren’t burning up the fuel and we can salvage some of that fuel for later.”

Deputies also say the bikes are a good tool for community policing. “It’s easier for us to get downtown and get to meet the people,” said Constable Deputy John Shellhorn. “People are able to see our face, we don’t have a window between us.”

Deputy Cheatham will start the certification program on Monday. He will have to perform several 30-mile rides, learn how to fall, crash and even shoot off a bike. Deputy Shellhorn will follow him soon after and try for the certification in October.

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