The Associated Press
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - Indiana State Police are patrolling on motorcycles again for the first time in 65 years.
Mobility, cost, and even gas mileage have factored into a decision to try four new Harley-Davidsons as patrol vehicles. They began patrols over the weekend.
"In congested traffic areas, or when the crash is in a construction zone, they can get to the scene fast and open the roadway for the squad cars," Lt. Scott Beamon said. "Such mobility is very useful. And the amount of road travel has been increasing over the years."
Motorcycles cost thousands of dollars less than patrol cars and they get 42 miles to a gallon of gas, compared with 21 miles for a squad car, Beamon said.
Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson provided the four motorcycles used in the pilot program for free.
More than a dozen officers completed two weeks of training at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Experts from Harley-Davidson and the Northwestern University Traffic Institute taught the classes.
In the pilot program, the motorcycle troopers will cruise the central part of the state, particularly in high-traffic areas around Indianapolis, said Beamon, a state police spokesman.
The state police will evaluate the pilot program in four to six months. If it's found effective, the program will be expanded, Beamon said.
"We did a lot of research and concluded that motorcycles are effective, safe and comfortable enough for our use," he said. "We are optimistic that we'll do well."
The last time the state police patrolled on motorcycles was 1939.
Local police agencies have had motorcycle units in place for years, but how they use them varies by department.
The Fort Wayne Police Department has eight Harley-Davidsons that it regularly uses for patrolling. It uses motorcycle officers primarily for traffic enforcement but they respond to any type of calls, Deputy Chief Marty Bender said.
"The biggest drawback in this part of the country is the weather," Bender said. "But they have the capability to get in and around the traffic. They also cost less for fuel and initial purchase."
Each motorcycle costs about $14,000, plus an additional $4,000 to $5,000 for equipment, Bender said. A squad car costs about $34,000.
The Indianapolis Police Department has 50 motorcycles, including some Harleys.
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"We have used motorcycles as long as they have been a viable form of transportation," said IPD spokesman Steve Staletovich.