Eastside and Westside residents alike can expect to see bike patrols.
At a Westside meeting last month to discuss a Neighborhood Watch program, residents asked Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez to reinstate officers on bicycles who once patrolled the neighborhood. Sanchez agreed to the proposition then, and is making good on his promise now with bicycle patrolling set to take place not just in the Westside but also in the Eastside neighborhoods as well.
“It’s nice to see the response to the neighborhood’s request,” said Councilmember Helene Schneider, who has lived in the Westside for seven years. “I’m pleased the chief is willing to give it a chance.” Schneider remembers walking the neighborhood while running for office in 2003 and people talking about bringing back bicycle patrols, she said.
The decision wasn’t based on a few bigger events which have made recent headlines in Santa Barbara, Lt. Paul McCaffrey said, but rather stems from a behavior that is more and more present in those neighborhoods. The bicycle patrol will add another dimension to curbing negative behavior. McCaffrey explained that the program on the Westside ended “some years ago” because the problems the bicycle patrol was installed to take fix had quelled.
McCaffrey didn’t dish out the exact blueprint for the department’s plans, but said the cycling officers will become immediately visible and will address specific objectives, including gang activity and members of the homeless community who are committing crimes. Often times these groups “create a climate of fear,” McCaffrey said.
The department is trying to foster confidence in working together with community members, as officers on bicycles are often easier to approach and more personal than a car cruising by. “It’s another form of policing,” Schneider said. People feel safer seeing an officer on a bike. There’s a strong psychological connection.” Officers also have the ability on bicycles to approach and stop more suddenly, and can get into areas cars cannot, which will eventually lead to people changing their behaviors, McCaffrey said, hopefully making the city - specifically public areas such as parks - safer.