NP police bike patrols back on streets after 20-plus years

NP police bike patrols back on streets after 20-plus years

Above, three officers in training, in foreground from left, Jeremy Bibby, Jeff Galligan, and Luis Rivera, pose with bicycles they'll use to patrol town streets. At rear are, from left, Deputy Chief Chris Pelagio, training Lt. Mike Mefford of the Airport Police, and Chief Paul Martellini. (Breeze photos by Ethan Shorey)

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Give them a different mode of transportation and a different uniform and expect a different result.

That's the theory as police officials bring back bicycles as a way to increase engagement with the local community and take a more proactive approach to crime.

There is no doubt that seeing an officer riding a bicycle in a more casual uniform helps make residents more comfortable with them, said Chief Paul Martellini. Cruisers and formal uniforms have their place, but studies show people trust and confide in police more when they feel they are on the same level.

"Put them on a bike and in a different uniform and they're much more approachable," he said. "People will interact and ask questions much more readily."

According to Martellini, the last time North Providence had a police bike patrol program was 1992 when the town could still afford a community policing division.

The goal today is to have officers go down the town's hundreds of side streets, into its villages, and along main roads like Mineral Spring Avenue, said Martellini. They will be encouraged to interact with residents and business owners everywhere they go, being proactive in their approach to law enforcement.

"It's good public relations and good community policing," he said.

The new program will involve officers taking to their new bicycles on four-hour shifts. They will be paid overtime for the work as money can be found, said the chief. The hope is to use money from the department's 2012 Google windfall when the question of who controls the spending of it is settled, he said.

The two Fuji bicycles used by officers came at a cost of more than $700 apiece, paid for out of the Google fund, said Martellini. Those expenditures were approved prior to the fund being frozen last month. The bicycles come complete with lights and a helmet, he said, and are designed to go where it's "not feasible" for cruisers.

Unlike the previous incarnation of the program, this new initiative will involve all patrol officers, said Martellini. They'll supplement officers in cruisers by going to the places where cruisers can't.

It was Officer Luis Rivera who first approached command staff about bringing back police on bicycles, said Martellini, and Rivera did all the legwork to get him the pros and cons of the program.

"I was sold," said the chief.

Rivera, who describes himself as a "fitness guy," said he thought a bike program could benefit officers by keeping them in better shape and giving them an "up close and personal" mode of reaching residents.

Having the bikes is already building morale in the department, said Rivera, and hopefully the program will provide encouragement to town residents at various events.

Michael Mefford, acting lieutenant for the Rhode Island Airport Police, is running patrol officers through a 32-hour course on how to ride the bikes. This is no easy assignment, said Mefford, as officers must test well on a series of difficult cone obstacle courses.

Anyone can "pedal" a bike, said Mefford, but the officers he trains all over the state are learning how to really "ride." That's important because they need to know how to navigate tight spaces in a safe way.

Mayor Charles Lombardi said he's excited that the bike program is coming back.

"Any time that we could increase our police participation and their visibility in the neighborhoods, it makes for a safer community for all," he said.

Officer Jeremy Bibby trains on an obstacle course of cones at the North Providence Police Department last Friday. Officers are training to use the bikes for regular patrols of town streets. (Breeze photos by Ethan Shorey)
Officer Luis Rivera initiated the return of bicycles to the North Providence Police Department.

Comments

Highly doubt they will be on the side streets.

They won't be on MSA pulling over cars or sitting in parking lots as you have complained about before, so where else would they be??