Bike patrol going where other police vehicles can’t go
Police officers are more often associated with four wheels than two, but the two-wheeled variety of cop returned to the South Shore this summer with the reappearance of the South Lake Tahoe Police Department’s bicycle patrol.
Budget issues and staffing shortages caused the bicycle patrols to go dormant for the past two to three years, but positive reports of the reinvigorated program have started to trickle in.
About 10 South Lake Tahoe police officers volunteered for the bicycle program and received training by a pair of Roseville officers at the beginning of the summer, Lt. David Stevenson said during an interview on Thursday.
South Lake Tahoe encompasses an abundance of areas that are either inaccessible by car or take longer to get to by car than they would by bike, making the bicycle patrols an especially handy addition to the tools used by police, Stevenson said.
In addition to bicycle officers’ ability to reach inaccessible terrain, bicycles are effective tools because they are inexpensive, stealthy and allow officers to be more approachable to the community then when they’re in their cars, according to a 2006 analysis of bicycle police by Babson College Professor Ross Petty entitled “The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Bicycle Police.”
Although staffing issues have still required the police department to work below minimum requirements at times this summer, the bicycle cops have been put to work when officers have been available, Stevenson said.
Much of the bicycle work has been focused on meadows and beaches, as well as the Stateline area, where bicycle police units have been effective in discovering and breaking up drug activity, Stevenson said.
The California Tahoe Conservancy has also contributed funding to pay for regular bicycle patrols of the Upper Truckee Marsh.
Problems with activities that are prohibited in the area, such as drinking, smoking, unleashed dog-walking, camping and campfires, have made the unique area less attractive to visitors, said Dana Dapolito, with the Conservancy’s Urban Land Management Division.
But all of those problems have been reduced since the bike patrols started at the end of June, Dapolito added.
“The desired level of experience we expected to provide at this location has been brought more into balance,” Dapolito said.
Ray Lacey, deputy director of the conservancy, said the state agency has started to received better reviews of recreation in the marsh since the seedier activities have been curtailed.
The conservancy will contribute money for regular patrols of the marsh through 2010 as part of an experiment to see if the patrols work.
But, Dapolito and Lacey both said they consider the first year of patrols at the marsh by police a success.
Although the bicycle patrols are likely to go into hibernation during the winter, Stevenson said he expects them to be back when the snow melts next Spring.
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