HELENA – The Helena Police Department has ramped up its police patrol this summer to include bike patrol officers.
They will be patrolling areas like the walking mall, because patrol cars can't access those areas. You can see them in the areas of Centennial Memorial Park to Mt. Helena.
They have only been patrolling for about two weeks, but within that time frame a lot of business owners have told them they have concerns when they are closing up at night, as well as shoplifting. Mandi Peterson, one of the bike patrol officers, says they are going door to door and trying to introduce themselves to business owners to let them know they are here if they have any questions or concerns.
“A lot of business owners say ‘I never thought this was important to call in, but..’ So I feel like the business owners are feeling a lot more open with us, that they can state some of their concerns that maybe they never thought was a big enough deal to call in to our dispatch and tell them about,” said Peterson, a Helena Police Officer.
Peterson also said, people on the streets are starting to get more comfortable about approaching them as well. Peterson says they are trying to cut down on shoplifting or other thefts or any other problems that people may encounter, to keep Helena a safe place for people to visit and bring their families.
There is a lot of training that goes into patrolling the streets on two wheels. The two bike patrol officers had to go through a 32-hour bike training program in Ogden, Utah certifying them in the LEBA (Law Enforcement Bike Association).
During the training, they had to weave in and out of cones and ride around cones in a tight square. Along with riding over a seesaw and bouncing back down to the other side and curb jumps.
“We had a written test we had to pass. We had to do a lot of maneuvers through cones and obstacle courses and a lot of riding. How if we approach somebody on a bicycle, like a suspect or somebody we need to talk too, how to safety approach them because it is different on a bicycle than it is in a vehicle,” said Peterson.
Peterson says they can hear and see things on their bicycles that they would have never seen in a patrol car.
The two bike patrol officers will be working hours that are consistent with the busier times of the downtown area, along with the larger events in the Helena area coming up here in the summer months.