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Police officers gear up for new bike patrol in North Baltimore

THE BALTIMORE SUN

City police are forming a bicycle squad that will pedal through North Baltimore, and they've got plenty of volunteers for the assignment.

"We've got more than enough officers who are interested. They're very excited about the bikes," said Northern District Capt. Michael Bass. "If you have a job where you can do something you enjoy, and it gives you exercise to boot, then you've got it made."

The new unit, expected to hit the streets and sidewalks next month in as-yet unspecified areas, will send four officers out in pairs on rugged mountain bicycles.

Police expect the bicycle officers -- who will carry their guns in holsters strapped to their biker shorts -- will be practical in areas too large for a foot patrol officer to get around.

"We think people will really warm up to it and want to see more of it. It's a good way to establish one-on-one contact," said Captain Bass, who along with Lt. Walter Tuffy has planned the unit.

As is the case with a few other area police departments that are testing the concept of bicycle officers, the city police force is using the unit as a pilot program.

If the public reacts well, bicycle squads could be used in other districts.

City police officers used bicycles in the Northwest District in the late 70s but discontinued their use. Now, with the resurgence of foot patrols and community policing, the bikes are making a comeback in the police world.

Police in Las Vegas, Nev. and in Seattle have large squads that travel through gridlocked traffic and crowded apartment-complex parking lots.

Locally, Baltimore County and Bel Air police started mountain-bike units last summer, and Anne Arundel police recently started a unit of their own.

The unit in Baltimore County, which has operated in residential areas along Reisterstown and Frederick roads, as well as in Essex, will be starting a two-bike squad in Towson Monday.

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