Updated: 06/03/2014 10:16 PM
Created: 06/03/2014 9:49 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
Duluth Police are cruising the streets again on bike patrol, and they've had success keeping the community safe. That has them training officers from around the state this week to follow in their bike path.
Duluth Police have a new horseback patrol to be a huge, visible presence for events like Grandma's Marathon, but their stealthy two-wheeled coworkers have been busting crime in Duluth since the 90s.
“And if there's a problem say vehicle prowls or people on foot committing crimes you put a bike in that area at a certain time of day or night and you're very stealth. I mean they don't see it coming,” Officer Nick Lepak said.
He leads the patrol of about eight bike cops, and he said the group pedaled over 2,000 miles last year. Along the way they made 51 arrests, 26 of them for felonies, and wrote over 200 citations.
“A prime example is when the Last Place on Earth was around. Bike patrol was a humongously successful tool for us and it was really very successful,” Lepak said.
That impact has officers from Red Wing coming up to learn how to weave through traffic and other obstacles.
“As you can see from the road course here we're learning how to do serpentine, go up stairs, go down stairs. I mean it's a lot of stuff that you would never think you could do on a bike,” Sergeant Travis Bray said.
He said a bike is an effective too to cut down on crime in tight spots vehicles can't reach, but it can also shift up public opinion.
“It gets the guys and gals outside of the cars. We're out amongst the people. They're actually seeing us out and about,” Bray said.
He said that helps build trust and confidence in the police, but first they have to build their basic skills skirting around traffic cones.
“It's kind of like being in a crowd or in a confined area and being able to ride your bike and effectively manipulate it so you're not being a liability,” Lepak said.
Soon the recruits will hit the trails, parks and streets to keep their communities safe. The Duluth bike patrol does not have an off-season, but when the snow flies officers stick to patrolling the skywalk.