Copyright 2006 Albuquerque Journal
Officers say they improve coverage
By CAROLYN CARLSON
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — West Side bicycle cops are back.
A four-member team of officers who use bicycles and ATVs started pedal patrol on the West Side about two weeks ago.
The area has had bicycle patrols on and off in the past, but last year's staffing shortages prevented a team from being in the field, Westside Area Capt. Conrad Candelaria said.
"It is easier to interact with the public without the vehicle barrier," he said.
The four officers - Leland Sweitzer, Joey Tosta, Rick Ingram and Chris Romero - are Albuquerque Police Department Westside Area bicycle patrol officers. There are perks to the job. The four officers get to wear shorts to work and get some exercise while on their job. "I'm loving it," Sweitzer said Monday. "It allows us to be more proactive, go more places and talk with more people." The bicycle officers work in pairs during the day and swing shifts. They patrol from Cottonwood Mall on the north to Coors on the east and Central on the south and as far west as they can go.
Bicycle patrols allow officers to be more approachable to the public and gives them the ability to go into places where patrol cars can't navigate, according to Candelaria.
Romero said a bicycle makes it easier to sneak up on people who are breaking laws.
"This gives us the ability to do a lot more," Romero said.
This weekend Sweitzer and his partner Tosta spent part of their shift riding ATVs on the west mesa. They located several abandoned vehicles and cited several people with negligent use of a firearm for shooting guns on the mesa. They said they would not have been able to do that from a patrol car.
"We have the capability to go all over the place," Sweitzer said.
The officers have a patrol car with a bike rack and can move around during their shifts before launching on their twowheel patrol units.
Between riding the mesa and patroling the area around Coors and Central the two officers were able to talk to at least 100 people during their weekend shift.
"That is something we can't do from the inside of a patrol car," Sweitzer said.
Candelaria said the officers can run radar, make arrests and do just about anything else required of officers. They can help out officers who patrol in cars because of their ability to go into places cars can't. Working in pairs also helps keep the bicycle officers safe.
"The team aspect is very important when out on bikes," Ingram said.
Candelaria said during school hours, the bicycle officers will focus on school zones. After school, weekends and during the summer, the officers will patrol shopping centers or wherever crowds gather.
While APD provides the bicycles, the officers said they have had to learn how to maintain their wheels. But the benefits of being a bicycle patrol officer far outweigh having to change a tire or two.
The bicycle officers said people should feel free to come up and talk with them when they are out on patrol.
N.M. cops go off beaten path on bikes