Letter: Criminals fear cops on bikes

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The Independent Online
Sir: You could do well to examine the effect of just one bicycle- based policeman per shift in the Jesmond area of Newcastle upon Tyne ("Country police lose out as cash goes to cities", 7 September). Using the bicycle as an intermediate level of coverage between a foot and car patrol, operated both day and night, and in all weathers, a reduction in crime of 32 per cent has been achieved. Other forces have put community policemen on bikes, but frequently this is an optional way of doing the shift, sidestepped if it's dark or raining. Newcastle is the only example I have discovered which mirrors the success of over 1,200 police forces in the USA, who have reported dramatic improvements in crime control by introducing bike- cops.

Most US bike-cops have training in bike control and pursuit to give confidence for the descent of steep slopes under freeway bridges, and prevent the embarrassment of falling off at the feet of an offender in a bungled dismount. The International Police Mountain Bike Association provides a clearing house for such training courses. Membership extends to police forces in Russia and Australia.

The first of the new bike-cops started in 1987 in Seattle, and achieved twice the arrest rate with three bikes that the nine foot patrols on the same unit were managing, and equalling the whole precinct's car-based officers. In Salt Lake City the ability to cover an area 20 times a night, against the one or two foot patrols, delivered an 80 per cent reduction in car break-ins. Santa Barbara's epidemic of purse-snatching and parking- lot thefts evaporated when a silent, swift bike-cop replaced the coffee- swilling, doughnut-chewing corpulent cop in a car.