RPD “Pedal Patrol” gets officers closer to community

Posted at 11:41 PM, Aug 16, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-16 23:41:17-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--It wasn't a gimmick to save gas, but some RPD officers curbed their cruisers for a night in exchange for exercise and close contact with the community, “pedal” patrolling through some of the city's toughest neighborhoods.

Single mom Angelica Donaldson strolled towards Jeff Davis Highway with her one-year-old daughter and five-year-old son Thursday evening.

"It scares me a bit," she said. It's a necessary trip to the store, but because of crime recently, it's one she hesitates to take. "I don't like going around if the cops ain't around."

And there were plenty around Thursday night.  High visibility, officers patrolling by, trekking through some of the city's most troubled terrain.

"It's good for you guys to be out of your car and not behind that barrier of air conditioned glass," said Sgt. Lewis Mills, giving 23 bike patrol officers their riding orders  as they tackle each precinct by the handle bars.

"We are out looking for crime, of course, but also this helps with our contact in the community,” said Mills.  “You know, pull up to people and interact."

And the interactions were as simple as an officer gently ribbing a teenage boy about his rollerblading abilities.

Major Mike Shamus says such connections are crucial.  "When we are out there with them, it definitely puts some trust into the trust account," said Shamus.

The Pedal Patrol is a crime fighting initiative in its infancy.  Chief Bryan Norwood gave officers words of encouragement as they set out to take on the streets, with two wheels instead of four.  “In an urban environment, mountain bikes are useful because you can go almost anywhere,” said Norwood.

Bike officers wrote eight citations Thursday night for public drunkenness and were expected to patrol the Broad Street corridor downtown until midnight.