September 22, 2010 9:48:00 AM
Are two wheels better than four? In many circumstances, yes.
Columbus has fielded its first two pedaling patrolmen, who will be policing high-crime areas on mountain bikes. Patrolmen Kenneth Brewer and Dwight Smith are on bikes part-time until they complete their training, which will enable them to train other officers.
When it comes to urban policing, two wheels can, indeed, be better than four. The officers point out that they can be stealthy, catching suspects watching for a traditional police cruiser off-guard. Bikes can also go off-road in tight spaces where cars cannot. And when it comes to special events, bikes give police speed and mobility in crowds.
Bikes also get officers closer to those they''re serving, allowing them more personal contact -- a cornerstone of community policing.
Experts say bike patrols are effective. One 2008 study published in an international policing journal found that officers on bikes have twice as much interaction with the public as officers in cars. Some departments have found that police on bikes are more effective than police on foot patrol. The only thing limiting their effectiveness, apparently, is there aren''t enough of them.
Of course, a bike officers can''t do everything officers in cars can do, but they provide another effective arrow in the department''s crime-fighting quiver.
We applaud the Columbus department''s efforts to get officers closer to the street, and urge them to expand the fledgling bike program. While the department is also purchasing Segway-type vehicles for ticketing cars and patrolling special events, we like the idea of bikes a lot better. They''re cheaper and don''t require a battery charge.
And of course, it won''t hurt for some of these guys to get in better shape -- another happy side-effect of bicycle patrols.