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Bicycle patrols help build rapport with community

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If the weather is warm enough and the skies are clear, two Greenwood police officers will grab their helmets and spend several hours of their shift biking around the city, visiting areas unreachable in their patrol cars.

On one warm day last week, Officers Chris Reed and Erin Schenck rode to Northeast Park to see what was happening. Sometimes the pair will find teens smoking marijuana, but on Wednesday they met six kids doing tricks at the skate park.

Reed wanted to see what they could do.

“Impress me,” he said.

Then he watched as the kids raced down ramps with their skateboards and bikes, trying to get higher and higher in the air. Some of the kids had more success than others.

Greenwood officers have patrolled the city on bikes off and on since the mid-1980s and consistently for the past four years. The police department owns the three bikes Reed, Schenck and Officer Brent Goebel ride, and each one cost between $1,000 and $1,500.

The bikes give police a chance to patrol parades, events such as Freedom Fest, parks and other areas the officers can’t easily reach in their patrol cars. That makes it easier for Reed and Schenck to find someone who thinks they can smoke pot on a park trail, away from a city street, the officers said.

“These guys roll in there and surprise them,” Goebel said. “They’re not expecting a police officer on a bike.”

But the officers’ main goal of patrolling on the bikes for several hours each week is to be seen, and connect with the community, the officers said.

Kids love seeing police officers on bikes, they said. During their skate park stop last week, Schenck handed out stickers and badges to two girls who walked by, admiring her bike. One of the two left talking about how she was going to get a similar bike of her own some day.

The hope is that those girls or other kids Reed, Schenck and Goebel meet on their bike patrols will learn early that they can trust police officers, and that they can contact them if they see or hear about a crime in their neighborhood.

“Something about us being out of the car makes us more accessible,” Schenck said.

Reed, who’s been with the department for three-and-a-half years, and Schenck, who’s been with the department for two years, typically work the night shift. A few months ago, Schenck heard that Officer Brent Goebel was looking for two more officers to conduct bike patrols during the spring and summer months, and she volunteered the pair.

Working the night shift usually means receiving fewer calls, but those calls are often more serious, such as domestic disturbances or serious traffic accidents, than those during the day, Reed said.

Typically when Greenwood’s officers are patrolling in their cars at night, they’re by themselves, but Reed and Schenck often bike together during the day so that they’re able to back each other up. On the bikes, they don’t have computers or rifles that they usually have while they’re working. But they still carry firearms, handcuffs and other equipment, and are listening to the department’s radio so they can respond to any complaints or crimes happening near their route.

They’re also prepared to respond to calls, including traffic accidents, fights and suspicious people lurking around schools or other places they shouldn’t be. They also can still make arrests, although they would need another officer with a car to meet them and take whomever they picked up to jail.

If the pair see someone break the law, they can move on their bikes as fast as needed to catch them, the officers said.

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