By Alexandria Sands
Expect to see more Southport police officers on two wheels.
The police department is bringing back its bicycle patrol as operations return to normal after the department’s suspension last year.
“We’re trying to infuse it with what free time we have,” said Lt. Tony Burke.
Burke has experience with bike patrol from his time as assistant police chief in Oak Island, and two other officers — Riley Ransom and Lee Wigmore — also have previous training.
Bicycles first became a tool at the Southport Police Department when Mayor Jerry Dove led the effort during his time as chief (2003-2015).
The transportation method has its advantages over being on foot or in a car: Burke said police on bikes seem more accessible to the community.
“It takes a glass barrier away from the interaction with the public,” he said.
Bikes can also sometimes cover distances faster because they’re more maneuverable than a vehicle, cutting through crowds and fitting in tight spots. The Southport department and Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office equipped police with bikes during this year’s N.C. 4th of July Festival.
“When you start closing off and putting that many people in an area, it’s a good way to get around,” Burke explained.
Bikes allow officers to cover more ground than on foot. It’s a convenient way for police to respond to noncritical calls, such as taking reports of property damage or answering questions about golf carts.
The amount of time officers spend patrolling on bikes will depend on the weather, call volume and other factors. It will not be a mandatory patrol method for the police, but Burke said there are officers who are interested in this way of maneuvering through town.