Four state troopers from the Westminster barracks will soon be patrolling town streets, shopping centers and popular county events such as firemen's carnivals on bicycles, state police say.
Using bicycles gives troopers more mobility and allows faster response where patrol cars may not be practical because of crowds, or in off-road areas, said 1st Sgt. Robert Windsor.
The new bicycle patrol will concentrate on high crime areas, park trails, small towns and events, he said.
Before beginning, the four troopers selected for the patrol must complete a certified training program in Frederick, Windsor said.
"They will spend time in the classroom, learning bike maintenance, cycling techniques, patrol procedures and bicycle laws, as well as train on the bikes, which are slightly modified mountain bikes," he said.
For example, the troopers will practice pursuit techniques, firing a gun while riding and riding up and down stairs.
Windsor said the patrol may show up anywhere in the county, if needed, but likely will be most effective in smaller towns like Mount Airy and in concentrated shopping areas such as Eldersburg, with stores on both sides of Route 26.
Edward Kreczmer, president of Gamber & Community Fire Company, said he would like to have more information about troopers patrolling firemen's carnivals on bicycles.
"The presence of state troopers at our carnivals always provides a secure feeling when they mingle among the crowd and chat with people," Kreczmer said.
Gamber and Union Bridge kick off the firemen's carnival season again this year, from May 26 to May 31, and how the troopers do their job is up to them, be it in cars or on bicycles, he said.
"I've been around a long time and have always been impressed how troopers handle incidents when some people get a little too excited and their energy gets out of hand," Kreczmer said. "They know how to take control, and many times all they have to do is talk to the ones getting out of hand. If they show up on bicycles this year, that's OK with me."
The Westminster Police Department has successfully used officers on bicycles to patrol city streets for three years, adding one officer and bicycle each year.
Greater public awareness of police presence is a prime goal of community policing, and officers patrolling on bicycles achieve that, officials say.
Windsor said troopers on bicycles also will be periodically assigned to bicycle safety details, where they will have the opportunity to meet children and stress safety tips.