WEST POINT — Criminals may need to start thinking twice and looking over their shoulders before committing offenses in Troup County’s southernmost city these days.
West Point Police Department officers may not always be in a patrol car — or on foot. Instead, Chief Tony Bailey unveiled a new bike patrol unit in spring, which currently consists of three officers: Sgt. Tunya Brown, Sgt. Kevin Carter and Officer Roman Ramseur.
While the program is still getting off the ground, the officers are trying make it a consistent pattern to take the bikes out on a weekly basis.
Brown and Carter said they both hop on their 2015 Trek mountain bikes at least three times a week and try to ride in pairs twice a week.
The officers said the patrol is the same as if they were riding in a car. The officers pedal throughout West Point — from the housing authority north of East 1oth Street to the Booker Hills neighborhood south of East 4th Street and back down through the downtown area to Point University and everywhere in between.
“It does have a ‘sneak factor,’” said Carter. “But it also gives you a chance to interact with people. The patrol car is our worst enemy sometimes because we stay confined to it.”
Carter and Brown said during their first “cycle” out in the West Point community, they made two arrests and a traffic stop within the first 15 minutes.
“Some of the subjects out there aren’t going to see the bike patrol versus the car,” said Brown. “They’re not going to see the bike coming down the avenue, dark alleyways, whereas they would see the patrol car. That’s going to be a huge benefit to us at nighttime.”
“You’re confined to a roadway in a car,” he explained. “Now, instead of coming down a roadway, I can come through the woods and keep the bad guy guessing. We can suppress it (crime), whatever he’s doing. We may never stop it, but we can suppress it and that’s our goal.”
Carter said bike patrol officers will have a better advantage of catching people selling drugs, gambling, breaking into homes and more. He noted WPPD’s bike unit is a community-oriented policing tactic that is affiliated with crime suppression.
Brown said the unit is already positively affecting crime in the community and making criminals think twice before breaking any laws.
“People are used to looking out the window and seeing the patrol cars, but how are you going to look out and see a bike? It maybe up against the house,” she said.
“By the time someone starts forming a pattern, we can change it,” added Carter.
Currently the bike patrol officers are riding only day shifts, from about 8 in the morning until 7:30 at night. Brown said they plan to implement a nighttime riding shift in the future.
“I want the bike patrol unit to be a unit … a small unit … not too huge … no more than four or five people,” she said. “I want people to work for it … to go through standardized testing to be on the unit and to maintain (being a part of the unit).”
All three current WPPD bike patrol officers will soon go through a training course designed for police departments with bike units. The class is not state-mandated, but Brown and Carter said they plan to take it as a way to hone their skills.
“You may pedal four to five miles and your legs are tired. Then you get a call for a bank robbery,” Brown said. “You have to still be mentally prepared and aware to go to that call. Then get those legs, that are physically tired, to keep going and do what you have to do to respond.”
Both officers said they have received a good response from the community when on bike patrol. They hope to also use the unit for special events around the city limits.
The LaGrange Police Department also has a bike patrol unit. LPD Lt. Mark Kostial said they plan to hold tryouts for more officers and expand the group this fall.
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. She may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.