People looking to cause trouble are looking for police cruisers before beginning their nefarious deeds, not two men on bicycles, something that Stettler RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Duncan Babchuk said is translating into several successful collars for the biking cops.
One of the key successes was nabbing a Stettler man who had been dodging police for weeks after a warrant was issued.
“He always hid when he saw police coming in the cruiser,” Babchuk said. For four weeks, the man evaded arrest until one day, two police officers on bikes rolled up beside him as he walked down the street.
“The stealth component is one of the successes of the program,” Babchuk said. Stealth, however, is only one component of the program.
There are currently three constables trained to be on cycle duty – Constables Matthew Fifield, Brad Wheeler and Carter Boytinck. The men, if they put in a full shift on the bikes, can put in 50-70 km a day.
“We acquired the bikes early and had them training before starting the training program,” Babchuk said. “There’s no way you can go into the training cold and succeed.”
The return of the bicycle program, which faltered due to constable transfers and staffing constraints several years ago, has been greeted with support and approval from community agencies and government, Babchuk said.
The locals have welcomed the patrols, too, since they can get to places a cruiser can’t easily access, like the walking and biking trails in West Stettler Park, or celebrations like the one this past Canada Day.
“Bicycles are a great way to get through a crowd or stopped traffic,” Babchuk said. “The bikes are mountain, or all-terrain, bikes so they can go over medians and through ditches.”
The ability to cruise through parks, where cruisers can’t go, has resulted in fines and charges to some park-goers, some alcohol related, Babchuk said.
“Instead of being on the perimeter of events, now we can get inside,” he added, citing the recent musical ride as well as Canada Day celebrations as instances where the police were able to weave through crowds and make their presence known in a positive fashion.
“The visibility is good, and the public perception of safety improves,” he said.
He also said the program is very effective during the night hours, as they’re able to go through alleyways in some of the high-target areas, such as businesses, with a low chance of being detected.
“No one has business at a business in the middle of the night unless they’re the owner,” Babchuk said. With no lights or car sounds, the cycling constables can sneak up on potential criminals with ease.
With current staffing issues, the constables who work on the bicycles actually work opposing shifts, meaning that to go out, one of the officers has to come in early or stay late, working extra hours. A bit of overtime goes over well, Babchuk said, and for the program, it’s something the detachment is willing to support.
The cycling constables can be seen in and around town during the summer months.