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The two wheels of the law

Bethlehem PD launches bicycle patrols for the summer

For almost everyone interacting with the police (for good or ill) their first contact is generally an officer stepping out of a patrol car.

The Bethlehem Police Department is aiming to change that by rolling out two new bicycle units that will be rolling through the streets and parks of the town this summer. It's a new program officials hope might strengthen relations between police and the community.

Police Chief Louis Corsi said the department has long been mulling over starting a bike patrol, but the sparsity of housing and businesses in most parts of the town would have limited its effectiveness. Now, Bethlehem is a different place.

With all the development over the last couple years, it just made good sense to put the bikes in the field, he said.

The mountain bikes will also be going out on to the recently-opened county Rail Trail.

Detectives Chad Rice and Michael Whiteley will be taking on the bicycle patrol duties. As school resource officers, their summers are less busy than the rest of the year and they often pitch in on patrols in addition to their work in the department's Family Services Unit. Now, they'll be spending a lot of that patrol time on their bikes.

One boon of being on a bike is that the officer is closer to the community and more accessible, Rice said.

"It's definitely a lot easier to get engaged with a resident on a bike than in a patrol car," he said.

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Both detectives completed a 40-hour training course held at the University at Albany this June. Altogether, they biked 100 miles over the week and covered all sorts of strategies for policing from their bikes.

Officials said there's no particular area of town that's going to be targeted by this initiative, but a bike rack mounted on a Bethlehem police patrol car means the bicycles can be deployed anywhere in town police think they might be of use.

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