Don’t be surprised if a Rotterdam police officer whizzes through your neighborhood on a bicycle this fall.
Some patrolmen are parking their cruisers and taking to the streets aboard a mountain bike. The department recently received three heavy-duty bicycles that were donated by Union College last summer and reconditioned with donations from several area businesses.
The 16 officers trained for bike patrol won’t use them exclusively, but have been given the opportunity to use them during their shifts. Lt. Thomas Culbert said several cruisers have been outfitted with bike racks.
“The chief is allowing them to take the bike to their zone, park the car and then ride in the area,” he said.
With the department’s manpower at a minimum, Culbert said he doesn’t envision the Rotterdam police having a dedicated bicycle patrol. Instead, the bicycles will be used by officers as a tool that can be deployed at their discretion.
“It’s a little tougher to dedicate a bicycle officer,” he said. “We figured if we train the guys, we could let them us it as a tool.”
The bicycles were apparently retired from service and being stored at Union College when Tom Constantine, the assistant director of campus safety, suggested they be donated to Rotterdam. The department then received a $500 donation from the Rotterdam Business Association to rehabilitate them, in addition to in-kind work from Freemans Bridge Sports in Glenville and La Rosa’s Automotive in town.
Rotterdam has never had a bicycle patrol before and isn’t exactly a municipality conducive to one. The town is webbed with busy thoroughfares that aren’t ideal for bicycle traffic.
But the town also has dense suburban tracts —such as the sprawling Coldbrook Neighborhood —where a bicycle could be a bit more useful than a cruiser. Culbert said the bicycles offer officers to approach suspects quietly and unexpectedly, which could come in useful when police are on the lookout for vandals or someone breaking into parked vehicles.
“You tend to roll up on a lot of stuff because people don’t see them coming,” he said.
The bicycles also give officers more of a chance to interact with the community they police. Culbert said he’s gotten nothing but positive feedback from both the officers and residents since two of the three bicycles hit the street last month.
“You stop and talk to people,” he said of the officers on bicycles. “Residents see you on a more personal basis.”