Crime-fighting’s new wheels

By Ruth Davenport

Campus Security bike officers are kicking into high gear.

Ten members of the University of Calgary Campus Security Bicycle Unit spent two days over May 27-28 learning the skills required for effective bike patrolling. The training was coordinated by Bike Unit Coordinator Tania Simister and conducted by Sgt. Kevin deVillenfagne, head of the Calgary Police Mountain Bike Unit.

"There’s always been between eight and 12 officers in the bike unit," said Simister. "But we haven’t had the training or the focus so it hasn’t been used as effectively as it could be."

Simister brought a proposal to Campus Security Manager Lanny Fritz in August 2000, seeking a transformation of the bike unit. One aspect of the proposal included proper certified training.

The two-day training program included both classroom sessions on nutrition and theory and practical skill training on the bikes. deVillenfagne explained that the training occurred in concert with the Law Enforcement Bicycle Association, a North America-wide association which developed a standardized training format for law enforcement bicycle officers.

"What we’re doing is training the [security] officers to learn balance techniques and skills so they can control their bike at limited speeds," explained deVillenfagne. "Most of what we do is patrol. We’re not riding quickly, so we’re encouraging these guys to learn skills that will allow them to ride slowly and get in and out of tight situations and closed areas."

There are several advantages to bike patrols over foot or vehicle patrols, including increased mobility, access, enhanced visibility or conversely, enhanced stealth.

"One of our big advantages is that we can get around with very little fanfare or noise," said deVillenfagne. "We can get in tight to situations without anyone knowing we’re there."

Fritz also pointed out the usefulness of bike officers patrolling parking lots and "dark areas" on campus, increasing nighttime safety for campus pedestrians through a better patrol saturation of the campus.

"With the huge parking lots that we have on campus, if an officer were to walk through them, it would probably take half a day," said Fritz. "You can probably ride through all of them within a half hour. If you can do that a couple of times a day, both the visibility and effectiveness [of campus security] is increased substantially."

deVillenfagne agreed, indicating the deterrent effect of bike patrols to would-be criminals.

"If someone is walking across a part of campus where there are no vehicle roads, you lose the mindset that no one could be there," he said. "Bikes don’t have to stay on the road to do patrols."

According to Simister, bike patrol officers are required to conduct their patrols on bikes from April to the end of October, and otherwise as the weather permits. The bike patrol officers are expected to operate for approximately 90 per cent of the year.

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