HANCOCK COUNTY — They’re all-terrain power bikes, military-tough and ready to roll, and they will be on display during the Riley Festival parade.
That’s when the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department will roll out its latest effort in community relations by introducing a new bike patrol.
As one of only two county bike patrols in the state — the other is in Allen County — Sheriff Brad Burkhart can’t wait for his deputies to get out into the community on the new bikes, which have a battery-powered motor to help riders get moving when they need to.
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Starting a bike patrol is something Burkhart wanted to do, he said, when he was chief deputy, and he’s glad he finally got the goal accomplished.
“My thought is we need them for public relations more than anything,” Burkhart said. “It’s kind of like doing the old foot patrol or beat patrol.”
The sheriff likes the idea of getting the deputies out of their cars and closer to the people they serve. The bicycles are sure to be conversation starters once the public lays eyes on them.
So far, the department has purchased two Recon Power Bikes at a cost of approximately $3,495 each. They bought the Ranger model, complete with fat, all-terrain tires. The bike is designed to be used by the military; its name is a tribute to the U.S. Army Rangers.
The bikes can be powered by pedal, but the Ranger bike is capable of going up to 50 miles with peak speeds of 40 mph when the battery power is engaged. They’re also equipped with police lights, a siren and other things officers might need.
The plan is to get the bikes on the streets, into the neighborhoods and on the trails where deputies will be able to engage with citizens.
“We’ve always got guys riding through neighborhoods in their cars, but they seldom stop and talk to people. With the bikes, guys are going to stop,” Burkhart said.
The sheriff has a group of four officers — full time deputies Kyle Addison, Dillen Sexton, Ryan Nasby and reserve deputy Jeremy Smith — who have expressed an interest in being on the sheriff’s bike patrol. The sheriff also plans to ride occasionally, he said.
Like the sheriff, the deputies think the bikes will be an excellent public relations tool.
“It’s also something different for us and will help us show a police presence in a positive way,” Smith said.
The deputies are not worried about their safety. Sexton said they mostly will ride on subdivision streets or on the trails.
“We’re not going to be out on any of the major roads where our patrol cars will mostly be,” Sexton said.
Addison hopes the sheriff allows nighttime riding. He and the others work the overnight shift, and deputies see an advantage to being able to ride silently and unnoticed through rural subdivisions after dark.
“We can help keep the neighborhoods safer being able to roll up on people who are not expecting us,” Addison said. “These would have been handy with all the recent car break-ins.”
As the community stresses cycling as a healthy activity, the deputies hope they can help others learn more about bike safety. That includes teaching kids to wear their helmets to avoid injuries. The officers are well-aware that two bicycle riders were hit and killed by motorists this summer in the county. But they hope their presence helps reinforce the importance of sharing the roads.
Officers will engage the small motors on the bikes when they need to get somewhere in a hurry or get too tired from peddling. But, for the most part, the Ranger bike is going to be used like a normal bicycle.
Bike patrol officers will carry their bikes on their cars and visit an area they want to patrol. Once there, they’ll hop on the bike and ride.
Most of the patrols will be three- to four-hour shifts where the riders can either come in early or stay later than their normal shift to ride on evenings and weekends. If all goes well, the hope is to expand the program in the future.
The Greenfield Police Department resurrected its bike patrols in April. The department has used bike patrols sparingly the past couple of years — mostly during community events — but officials decided to bring the patrols back permanently. It had been nine years since the department had run a regular bike patrol.
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The Recon RANGER Power Bike:
Cost: Approximately $3,495 each
The Ranger, which has a battery-powered motor that can be engaged if the rider doesn’t want to pedal, has a range of up to 50 miles with peak speeds of 40 mph-plus.