The modern police patrol car is a wonder of technology, featuring computers with access to police station data banks, plus the Internet, radios, cell phones and, in many cases, video cameras.
A patrol car can be a world unto itself, giving a police officer access to all manner of information, and the ability to be in touch with potential backup officers almost constantly.
These developments are good. They contribute to an officer's safety, and presumably make police work at least a little bit easier.
But people aren't machines, or bits of data or statistics. They are social creatures, and, despite all our electronic connectivity, there's no substitute for face-to-face spoken communication.
This is true all around, including in police work.
Perhaps this is why community leaders in Edgewood are so enamored of the Harford County Sheriff's Office's bicycle patrol program in their community.
Speaking at a recent Edgewood Community Council meeting, Stephen Puopolo credited the bicycle patrols with a perceived reduction of crime in the sometimes troubled community.
Jansen Robinson, chair of the council, was also complimentary of the bicycle patrols: "You guys are doing a good job, just keep it up."
Bicycles don't have the kind of capabilities of a patrol car, especially a car equipped with computers, radios and other gadgets.
Bicycles do, however, put deputies face to face contact with the community they're protecting. People in the community get to know an officer's friendly face when a routine patrol is just that, routine.
And, the officers get to know the friendly faces of the people in the community.
In the long run, face-to-face contact is also bound to help both law-abiding citizens and the long arm of the law in situations that aren't routine and in which no one is smiling.