County police officers Kevin Tribull and Lee Whitlow already have benefited from the bicycles that five area business owners helped the department purchase.
In one case, a suspected drug dealer ran out of an alley and tripped over the front wheel, ending a police chase. "I don't believe we would have been there in time if we had been on foot," Whitlow said.
The new vehicles, four 21-speed mountain bikes, will be used by police officers patrolling Meade and Freetown villages, communities plagued by drug dealers.
The bikes are mainstays of a new effort in community policing that helps residents and children get to know the officers on their beat. It also helps police reach some the alleys and parks that a patrol car cannot get to.
"They are something for the community to identify with," said county Police Chief Robert R. Russell, adding that without the $2,164 contributed by the five businesses, the bicycles might still be on the department's wish list.
"We would have had to search the budget," he said. "I'm not so sure we would have been able to come up with the funds."
The advantage of the bicycles over patrol cars is that they allow officers to mingle in the community more. Officers can speed up and down streets or through yards and playgrounds, but they also can slow down and take a leisurely ride down a sidewalk or stop and chat with children.
"The children feel more intimidated by a patrol car than by a bicycle," saidTribull.
The Hard-rock mountain bikes come complete with saddle bags and safety helmets. They are ridden by officers in the PACT unit,which stands for Police And Community Together. So far, they are only being ridden in good weather and during daylight hours.
The business owners, major contributors to the DARE drug prevention program operated by the police department, said they recognize the need for more police tools in their fight against crime.
"Nobody likes drugs," said Richard Laughery Sr., who owns the Linthicum-Ferndale Auto Body shop.
Vernon Snyder, who owns Snyder's Willow Grove in Linthicum, said four bikes may not be enough.
"I think the police will findout how valuable they are," he said. "I think you will see more of them."
The other business owners who donated money are all from Glen Burnie: Chris Green, who owns Stop Enterprises; Ron Vogt, who owns Maryland Recycle Co.; and Otts Fratt, owner of the Sunset Cocktail Lounge.