Avon police embrace pedal patrol
Avon, CO Colorado
AVON – Ken Dammen blends in with the spandex-clad people streaming in and out of Venture Sports bike shop in Avon.
He did, after all, cruise up to the store on his bicycle. And if it wasn’t for the reflective letters on his uniform that read “police,” one might assume the fit 43-year-old was on a break from a leisurely ride.
While it appears Dammen is just hanging out on a bench, though, he’s actually patrolling the fire lane. Store owners had complained that customers were parking in the fire lane on Fridays, blocking in other cars in the parking lot.
Avon residents might have noticed more police pedaling around town lately. That’s because the station received a $2,000 grant to launch formal bicycle patrols. The federal Department of Justice awarded Avon police the money in December, and it arrived this week.
Police used the funds to buy two Kona bikes, complete with flashing red lights. Wal-mart in Avon also donated $2,500 toward the program. Police put some of those funds toward buying uniforms made from COOLMAX material.
Police started the bike patrols at the beginning of the summer.
“It enables you to get out of the car and get into the neighborhood and talk to people,” Dammen said.
When he’s on the bike, kids come running up to greet him. Drivers wave. While he was sitting outside Venture Sports, a man drove up and asked for directions.
Unlike with a car, “You’re not in a big, metal cocoon, sheltered from everyone else,” Dammen said.
When it comes to police work, the bike has its advantages as well, he said. Police can sneak up on mischief-makers in parking garages, he said. During the July 3 party at Nottingham Park, bike cops easily maneuvered through gridlock traffic.
“You hear thing you wouldn’t normally hear (from a car) or smell things, like burning marijuana,” he said.
“You’re exposing yourself to a little more risk,” Dammen said. “We like to have two people go out if we can.”
The other challenge is, well, snow. Unlike in Arizona, where Dammen patrolled on his bike year-round for five years, Avon officers will probably have to stow their bikes for the season in late October or early November.
A handful of officers at the Avon station are trained for bike patrols. Dammen said they try to go out on bike patrol at least once a week.
Lt. Greg Daly said the bike patrols promote community interaction and officer fitness. Plus, bikes are subtle.
“There’s a stealth mode when you’re cycling around a building or an apartment complex, and also in the commercial core,” he said. “You’re able to sort of covertly approach an individual, especially if they’re up to any sort of mischief.”