The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is utilizing pedal power in the fight against crime. Deputies are now using bikes to patrol trails, greenways and neighborhoods that are not always motor vehicle friendly. The bikes give the deputies the ability to maneuver through tight areas and to do so stealthily. As Deputy Ryan Weidler points out: “When you roll up on a bike they (the suspect) have no clue who it is at first.”
The element of surprise can lead to a quicker and easier apprehension of a suspect. The bike patrol deputy also has a speed advantage over a suspect attempting to evade arrest on foot, while being able to quickly dismount if necessary.
Patrol District III’s bike patrol unit is manned by Deputy Jonathan Lord and Deputy Ryan Weidler. Their main areas of focus are gang and juvenile activity on the Upper Tampa Bay Trail, Town ‘N Country Greenway and neighborhoods surrounding the trails. During the daytime and early evening hours, the trails are mainly used by local residents for recreation. During this time the duo provide a “police presence,” watch for kids biking without helmets, and bicyclists without proper gear. If they come across such a scenario, they gladly point out what the current bicycle laws are, and advise parents on how to obtain the necessary helmets or on-bike lighting for their children.
When the sun goes down, they continue to patrol the trails and neighborhoods, but their focus shifts from minor bicycle violations to major violators. Gangs and juvenile offenders seek out the trails because of their seclusion from the peering eyes of the authorities. The bike patrol is there to monitor these individuals late into the night, and to assist in their apprehension should a crime be committed.
The community has gotten behind the bike patrol. The use of bicycles instead of cars make deputies easily approachable, more “human.”
Deputy Lord points out: “There's been a huge outpouring of support from the community. They are definitely pro bike patrol.”