Police Officers in Graham are using an old method to curb recent crime trends. An new unit is sporting bicycles to help patrol the city. Police said this new tool is stealthier than you might think.
Normally when someone gets pulled over, you may expect flashing lights and a brief siren. But if you get pulled over in Graham, you could see a flashlight, and hear a small tap on your bumper -- a sign that you've been caught by an officer on a bike.
You might think a police bike would be ineffective compared to a much speedier patrol car, but Sergeant Terry Vanlandingham said the silent cyclists have an element of surprise.
"They don't see the bikes comin'. We can hide a lot better. We can do surveillance on drug houses, things like that, without being seen," he said.
At first, Corporal Devin Wright thought the bike idea wouldn't really work, but that changed when his feet hit the pedals.
"Once we started doing it, we got certified and we got out on the street and we started riding, it amazed me the things we could accomplish on a bicycle we can't in a patrol car," he said.
Officers in the bike unit do most of their patrolling after their regular shift in a patrol car -- usually at night. Wright said it's easier to talk to people who are walking around late at night. If a crime does happen later, the police already have a potential witness -- or suspect.
"I've been super impressed with the ability of the stealth part of it," Wright said.
Police formed the unit in response to a recent surge of thefts and burglaries. Vanlandingham said the bikes have already helped reverse that trend.
"The last few weeks we've seen a real good effect about bikes being out. People like 'em. People love to see us out on bicycles," he said.
Officers can dispatch the gas-saving unit as back-up to crime scenes; the cyclists have everything regular officers do.
"It's really hot because we still wear own vests. We wear all our gear. We're carrying most everything that we carry in our patrol car. We carry it on our bike," Wright said.
The time officers spend on the bikes is voluntary, but they do get compensated for it. They're expected to do about 16 patrol hours each month.
The bike unit also handles parades and crowd control. Vanlandingham said the officers in their bright blue uniforms are a great publicity tool that have opened up good relations with people in town.