Kent State police break out the bikes

Simon Husted

Instructor calls bicycle patrols more efficient

Miguel Witt, who has instructed bike patrol training for the Kent State Police Department for four years, prefers policing the campus by bike rather than cruiser because of the connection it gives him to the campus.

“It’s a more efficient way to patrol, especially in a certain size environment like college campuses,” Witt said.

Since the late 1980s, the Kent State Police Department has trained all its police officers for bike patrol. Witt said the bike’s biggest strength is allowing officers to reach a victim, offender or concerned pedestrian in areas motor vehicles can’t.

“You’re so limited in a car and where you can go,” Witt said.

Sgt. Rick O’Neill, who has 14 years of experience patrolling on bikes, said they allow police presence in areas like walkways and fields that would be impossible for a police car to travel.

Areas like the quad field between the Honors College residence halls and Lake and Olson halls are easy to travel through, O’Neill said.

“It allows them to get into campus better because the roads only go so far,” said Whitney Foster, a freshman flight technology major.

Foster, an avid bike rider, said although the campus is full of hills, it is easily manageable if the rider is in good shape.

Witt said athletics hasn’t caused any issues for the officers, with riding across campus from the Stockdale Building to Twin Towers taking between three to five minutes. A cop car could cut that time by only one to two minutes, he said.

Each of the five patrol bicycles is custom made and costs $800.

“For the bikes that we have and some of the accessories that are on them like shocks and other components, they are priced fairly average,” Witt said.

No ratio is set between bikes and cars for patrol shifts. As long as two cop cars are patrolling, the bikes are divided amongst the officers.

Although the bikes are durable, Witt said they aren’t equipped to handle snow, so most officers choose not to pick up a bike until after the snow melts and temperatures warm.

The patrols last through the summer and end in the fall when the weather isn’t as compatible with bikes.

But even though the bikes can give officers a more approachable and human presence on campus, O’Neill said they lack the law enforcement recognition cars bring.

The Kent State Police Department said officers began patrolling on bikes weeks before spring break started, but this lack of recognition could have an impact on the patrol’s visibility.

“I feel like I’ve seen one, but not a lot,” said Mindy Jervis, a sophomore music education major.

Another reason for the lack of bike patrol presence has to do with the decrease in officers in recent years. Witt said once the new officers are fully trained and ready for independent police work, they will begin using the bikes more.

Contact safety reporter Simon Husted

at [email protected].