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School is out for summer, and that means James City County’s bicycle patrol officers are out in full force.
“One of the biggest reasons [for the increase in bike patrols] is the schools are out, which means all your students are doing something in the community, playing in the neighborhoods or whatever have you, then you have the neighborhoods themselves are having neighborhood events,” Sgt. Brian Staton said.
Staton oversees the school resource officer unit — consisting of five police officers — who turn into bike patrol officers over the summer. They are joined by officers from the community services division and other patrol officers who are assigned to ride their department-issued “hybrid patrol bicycles” through various subdivisions and business areas such as New Town.
The officers often concentrate their patrolling to areas where there has been an increase in criminal incidents such as drug busts, thefts or break-ins.
Staton said crime is often deterred simply because of the officers’ presence in the neighborhoods. Officers on bikes are stealthy and are a “pretty good crime fighting tool.”
Increased bike patrols in the summer also improves or maintains the department’s relationship with the community, including the students the school resource officers get to know on a daily basis at the various schools they are assigned.
“It’s kind of a natural fit,” Staton said, adding the officers have an inside look at where criminal activity might occur because of their presence in school hallways.
Bike patrol officers are required to take a three-day class that teaches them the basics of their bicycles — which are equipped with lights and stickers indicating it is a law enforcement bicycle — how to properly care for the bike, how to handle the bike under patrol operations and how to handle emergency situations while riding the bike.
Staton said the department is sympathetic to weather conditions, and the officers are not asked to be on bike patrol all day, or when then the weather is particularly hot, rainy or dangerous. Officers’ patrol cars are also always close by.
“We’re not just riding around, were protecting the community,” Staton said, adding bike patrol has been effective in the past for catching and deterring criminals as well as building a relationship with the community.