VERMILLION, S.D. -- In an effort to go green and to be seen, the University Police Department at the University of South Dakota is stepping up its use of mountain bikes on patrol this fall.
Eight UPD officers have completed the 32 training hours required to patrol campus on mountain bikes – three Specialized Rockhoppers equipped with headlights, front suspension and disc brakes. Sgt. Sam Nelsen, one of only two police officers in South Dakota to be a certified IPMBA (International Police Mountain Bike Association) instructor, provided the training. The mountain bike patrol is part of the overall community-oriented policing effort that allows UPD officers less restricted access to campus at all hours of the day and during special events.
“Bicycles are ideal for a college campus,” stated Dallas Schnack, assistant director, University Police Department. “If you’re driving a car, campus isn’t as open, has less public roadways and parking lots are usually congested. With mountain bikes, patrol officers have the added ability to move quietly and interact better with the community.”
As much as the addition of mountain bikes benefits the department with more visibility for police officers and less restrictions, there’s also an expected cost savings that comes with the new wheels.
“Outside of the startup costs of around $5,000, the mountain bikes will eliminate wear and tear on patrol cars, and reduce the amount of gas and maintenance costs annually,” added Pete Jensen, director, University Police Department. “Our response times should also be faster as the mountain bikes offer greater accessibility to certain areas of campus that were difficult to get to in a patrol car.”
According to Schnack, University Police began using bicycles as far back as 20 years ago but not to the extent that they’ll be used in the future.
“Over the years biking in general has really picked up,” Schnack said. “Twenty, even 10 years ago, biking wasn’t a program as it is now for many police departments.”
In addition to the mountain bikes, University Police has added a Polaris utility vehicle to its fleet. The utility vehicle is electric and doesn’t utilize fuel to drive around campus. It seats two and was acquired to address several concerns of the campus community, including an opportunity to efficiently patrol and respond to areas of campus that are inaccessible to larger vehicles.
“These are good assets for us,” added Schnack. “If you see an officer on a mountain bike or driving the utility vehicle, it starts a conversation. You don’t have that opportunity in a car. It’s not the same.”
University Police, located in the Davidson Building on the USD campus, has 10 full-time police officers, and four full-time and two part-time public safety staff members. Full-time University Police Officers are sworn in as Vermillion City Deputy Police Officers and must attend the South Dakota Law Enforcement Academy for training. For more information, please call (605) 677-5342 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.