Westminster police start downtown bicycle patrol

April 27, 1995|By Bill Talbott | Bill Talbott,Sun Staff Writer

The Westminster Police Department has begun a downtown bicycle patrol that officials say will compliment foot patrols in the business district and nearby neighborhoods.

Officer Keith Benfer, a recent graduate of the Frederick City Police bicycle training course, volunteered to launch the city's one-bike pilot program.

Officer Benfer, who rode 10 miles on his first day of patrol yesterday, uses a wide-tire mountain bike.

"The bike patrol will enhance the foot officers in the downtown sections of the city and Officer Benfer will also journey out to other neighborhoods," Westminster Police Chief Sam Leppo said.

Westminster police decided to try the patrol after hearing of positive results in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, where bike patrols have been operating for two years.

Baltimore started a bike patrol in its nine police districts in the early 1970s but disbanded it after about three years. In 1992, the program was revived when five bike patrol officers were placed in each of the city's nine districts. Many district commanders since have increased that number to seven or eight.

Baltimore County began its bike patrol in 1993 and has 50 patrol bikes, some purchased with money seized in drug raids and some by community associations.

"The communities love seeing officers on their bikes," said Cpl. Andy MacClellan, a training officer for Baltimore County and for the International Police Mountain Bike Association. "It makes the officers much more approachable and certainly more visible to the public.

"I talk with between 50 to 100 people a day when I ride a bike. An officer doesn't talk to that many people in a month if he is assigned to a car."

Bicycle patrols also have proved useful for assignments such as crowd control during community events such as Fourth of July parades, Corporal MacClellan said.

Officer Benfer's mountain bike, uniform and helmet were purchased with a grant from the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's bicycle safety program.

Barbara Rogers, director of health education, said the bike cost $595 and the officer's helmet, uniform, dark blue shorts and light blue T-shirt with police insignia cost another $119.

"We are happy to be able to donate the bike and equipment to the Police Department and we know that Officer Benfer will be a role model in the promotion of bicycle safety and the use of helmets," Ms. Rogers said.

The bicycle is equipped with a first-aid kit, ticket books, an odometer and other materials, doubling the weight of the 25-pound two-wheeler.

Officer Benfer said the bicycle training program in Frederick taught him how to ride the bike up and down steps, how to chase and "take down" criminals, and bike safety.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.