Posted on 05 December 2013 by La Habra Journal
By Lauren Davis
La Habra Journal
The La Habra Police Department created a new bicycle patrol unit in an effort to reduce vehicle crime around large retail centers this holiday season.
Photo courtesy La Habra Police Department
Ready for patrol: Officers of the La Habra Police Department’s reinstated bike patrol stand next to their patrol bikes and their instructor (far left). The officers will be patrolling the many shopping center parking lots during the busy holiday season to help deter property theft from parked vehicles.
The bicycle patrol units, part of the police department’s new crime suppression campaign that began on Nov. 25, are assigned to the large shopping centers off of Beach Boulevard and Imperial Highway.
Jeff Swaim, a lieutenant at La Habra Police Department, said the bicycles have proven helpful when patrolling retail areas, since bike officers are only assigned to one area and can have better access to the public. Bicycles are also useful due to their mobility in apartment complexes, parks, alleys, fields and other areas not easily accessed by police cars.
The LHPD had a bicycle patrol unit in the early 1990s, but due to budget issues and reassignment positions within the department, it was shut down despite positive feedback from the community.
“The bicycle units used to be very effective back then, and very well received by the community,” Swaim said. “People enjoyed having police officers out of their cars and having the chance to approach them.”
In order for the 13 currently trained bicycle officers to become qualified for the bicycle patrol unit, they had to each undergo a three-day training class at Cal State Fullerton. The officers underwent training such as slow speed maneuvering, cone patterns, long-distance riding, proper nutrition and proper maintenance of the bicycles, to name a few.
At the end of the three-day course, the officers were required to then pass a written test and an obstacle course test, which tested their physical agility.
“They had to carry their bike up 70 stairs, ride around, jump over a six-foot wall, and drag a 150-pound dummy,” Swaim said. He explained that the three-day training class was quite shocking to many of the officers, who did not expect the bike patrol class to be as strenuous as it was.
“The class was instead very specialized,” said Swaim.
He added that participation in the bicycle patrol is voluntary and does not alter an officer’s regular assigned duties.
The bicycles used during patrol are 30-speed Kona Brand mountain bikes made by Safari Land. The bikes are all black, and come complete with emergency equipment like lights, sirens and integrated wiring.
Five out of the seven mountain bikes were donated by an anonymous donor, and the other two were paid for by LHPD. Swaim said that each bike cost $2,200, and included a two-year warranty plan.
Sumner Bohee, both a police officer and newly trained bicycle patrol officer at LHPD, said that he decided to volunteer for the bicycle patrol since he enjoys riding mountain bikes in his spare time.
“When I found out that we were bringing back our bike patrol program, I pretty much jumped at the chance,” Bohee said.
He explained that because of the high property crime rates during the holiday season, it is very important to have officers out in the shopping centers as much as possible.
“It is also just a great way to interact with the public, because people feel more comfortable approaching a police officer on a bike versus a police car,” Bohee said. “It really makes you (police officers) much more approachable to the public.”