Gotta love the Lexis-Nexis subscription free from school...
Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company
The Boston Globe
August 19, 2005, Friday THIRD EDITION
SECTION: METRO/REGION; Pg. B1
LENGTH: 1007 words
HEADLINE: PEDAL POWER DRIVING OUT CRIME, BOSTON POLICE SAY
BYLINE: By Suzanne Smalley, GLOBE STAFF
They are agile, intrepid, and all but invisible until they are upon you. And, after a summer of swooping through Boston's toughest neighborhoods, they are also in excellent shape.
The 15 officers assigned to the Police Department's bike patrol have done more than hone their cardiovascular fitness since the patrol's June 28 debut. In the city's most violent neighborhoods, they have received positive reaction from residents and, police say, made a dent in crime.
Bike unit officers have seized guns and along with officers who join them occasionally on foot, motorcycles, and horseback made more than 50 arrests and interrogated more than 100 suspects in the past two months. They even issued a summons to an 18-year-old they saw smoking marijuana.
The bike unit's work has been focused on Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester, but this week the unit began patrolling in Charlestown, where tension has been rising between rival drug gangs. They have also launched patrols in the South End because of a recent shooting.
"They responded well to a call we made about an individual who was riding his ATV through our practice fields," said Myron Stovell, who heads the Boston Raiders Pop Warner Football program, which holds practices at Franklin Field. "They stayed around for a while, and they've been around, every other day or so. . . . It's an area where we keep 200 kids, and they know they have safety with that presence."
Residents say they like the bike officers' speedy response and the way the officers can talk directly to people on the street. Police say they are effective, because officers on bikes are able to surprise criminals, something difficult to do in a police cruiser.
"They're silent, very mobile, and . . . they've been very successful," said Deputy Superintendent Darrin Greeley. "We want to be more visible. . . . We want to reduce fear and target crime in specific areas."
Greeley said the bike squad has helped police zero in on hot spots. Bike unit officers are especially useful in parks where troublemakers congregate at night, he said, because they can easily zip in under the cover of darkness and approach drug peddlers and others breaking the law.
The officers, ranging in age from 28 to 42, patrol on 21-speed, aluminum, Smith & Wesson mountain bikes. The bikes weigh about 35 pounds and are outfitted with Kevlar wraps to prevent flat tires and feature flashing blue lights and a horn that can mimic a police siren.
The officers wear Police Department uniforms, except with shorts. They cover an average of 20 to 30 miles a night.
Police officials say citizens can expect to see more of the bike officers in coming months, even when the temperature drops.
Each night they patrol, on the 4 p.m. to midnight shift, bike squad officers are handed maps that outline the areas to focus on, highlighting the street addresses where recent assaults and firearm arrests occurred.
All the officers on the squad volunteered, some leaving longtime posts in districts from East Boston to Jamaica Plain. What they get is heart-pumping and highly-interactive police work and more opportunities to connect with the residents of Boston's neighborhoods, whether 10-year-olds doing calisthenics or older residents on their porches.
On Wednesday evening, the bike officers, especially their horn siren, drew stares, shrieks, and occasional shouts in Roxbury. One woman yelled, "Ride, baby, ride!" at the passing blue blur as she sat on her porch in Orchard Park housing development.
Not everyone is glad to see them. That same night, officers rode up on Groom Street near Uphams Corner, the site of a recent aggravated assault, and stopped a group of teenage gang members idling in a rental car, a white Toyota with New Hampshire plates.
The youths are affiliated with a particularly violent band of teenagers from Wendover Street, police say, and they cruise streets in the Uphams Corner area in a rental car because the vehicles are harder to track. As bike unit officers frisked the teenagers, Lieutenant Jack Danilecki, unit commander, looked on approvingly.
A citizen standing nearby, who declined to be named because she said she fears for her safety, praised the bike squad, but said she wants its hours extended beyond midnight.
"They're doing this at the wrong time," said the resident, who identified herself as a member of the Wendover-Quincefield Neighborhood Watch Committee. "If they were to come out later, after 11:30, they'd see a lot more."
On Wednesday night, as on most nights, the work was varied: The officers visited a basketball court in Ronan Park, escorted two teenagers riding illegal scooters home, and rushed to a shed in a park off Dudley Street to search for drug dealers spotted from a distance by an unmarked car.
For members of the bike squad, many of whom grew up in the city and come from police families, the patrols offer a more intimate tour through the streets of Boston, and often trigger their memories.
Shortly after turning down Bellevue Street in Dorchester Wednesday night, Danilecki shouted, "Bad street, Jimmy," to his friend, Officer Jimmy Coyne, whose half-brother, Detective Sherman Griffiths, was killed in the line of duty there in 1988.
Coyne agreed, and then a short while later, the squad was pedaling past a small red-brick church near Dudley Street in Roxbury, barely lit in the darkness.
Coyne got off his bike, telling the officers it was time for a quick prayer. The other officers stopped and stood around him in the quiet night. They gazed at the stone cross atop the church's roof, and prayed silently.
After a minute or so, one officer joked about being able to see the nuns through a window. There was much laughter. And then they climbed back on their bikes and pedaled away.
Suzanne Smalley can be reached at [email protected]