August 20, 1993

One of the more intriguing developments in law enforcement recently is the increasing popularity of bicycle cops. Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties and Baltimore City have them as does Bel Air in Harford County. The Howard County Police

Department hopes to introduce bike patrols next year.

"I have more volunteers to ride the bikes than I have bikes," reports Lt. Robert Barlow of Anne Arundel's Eastern District. "It's been more successful than I thought it would be."

The Anne Arundel County police bicycle patrol program began last fall with three officers at Northern District. In less than a year, it has grown to 48 officers throughout the county.

What has been happening in Anne Arundel is happening throughout the nation. Police forces from Los Angeles to New York have discovered that pedaling is a cheap way to spread out police presence and keep in touch with neighborhoods.

Bicycle patrolling has been done sporadically for decades. But while 10-speed racers in the past gave officers mobility, their fragile wheels and narrow tires limited their usefulness. The introduction of more versatile mountain bikes, with all-terrain tires and more gears, signaled to police departments that the era serious bike patrols had arrived.

In recent times, more and more departments have been buying mountain bikes, helmets, Spandex pants and gloves for their officers. They have also forged partnerships with local communities, which often help with the cost of that equipment, getting bike patrols in return.

The result has been a new type of community policing effort that combines the best aspects of the neighborhood cop but gives officers more mobility. It has proven to be enormously popular.

In Baltimore City, Officer Keith Merryman, who is also a defenseman for the Baltimore Bays professional soccer team, keeps himself in shape by pedaling through crime-ridden streets. Bicycle cops "smell, see and hear things that just can't be detected by riding through a community in a patrol car," says one believer in this concept.

Bicycle patrols are no panacea to crime problems. But they have proven to be a valuable weapon in the arsenal of law enforcement. They deserve strong community support.

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