Cops back on bikes and writing registration tickets

The Sweet Home Police Department has resurrected its bicycle patrol this summer.

With the School Resource Officer position inactive for the summer and the department at full staff, for the first time in several years, the department has been able to run bike patrols since early July.

“It’s given us an opportunity to address some of the ongoing concerns we’ve been having at the City Council level and downtown businesses about bicycles on the sidewalks,” Police Chief Bob Burford said. These are issues that can only really be addressed by officers.

The three officers riding the bicycles have gotten the attention of many by writing tickets for bicycles that are not registered.

Police haven’t written many citations for the violation in recent years, but it has been a city ordinance for at least 28 years, according to department personnel.

The tickets are being handled as “fix it” tickets, Burford said, which means if a bicyclist registers the bike before going to court, the citation will be dismissed.

Registration costs $2 at Sweet Home Police Department. One of the reasons why officials have renewed attention to the registration requirement is the number of lost or stolen bikes the department has to deal with.

“We constantly have a couple of hundred bicycles that are found property or recovered,” Burford said. Officials have no idea who owns the bikes and cannot get them to the right owner.

Resource Officer John Trahan and officers Chris Wingo and Justin McCubbins are all putting in time on the bike patrol.

“I’m looking for kids who are not wearing helmets,” Trahan said. “It’ll save their lives. I’m just trying to do this to save kids’ lives.”

He hasn’t seen too many while riding patrol, he said, but he notices violations all the time when he’s off duty.

The main thing is creating public awareness about helmets and safety, he said.

He also has pulled over vehicles for traffic violations, such as drivers running stop signs, he said. It’s also helped him find more people with outstanding warrants.

While riding a bicycle, he said, people don’t notice the officers as much.

“It’s like being a passenger when you’re training somebody,” Trahan said. “You see more than when you’re driving.”

It’s more personal, McCubbins said. “You end up talking a lot more.”

It’s easier to see details while passing by, he said. Abandoned cars are more obvious, for example, because the officer can see things like spider webs, something they wouldn’t be able to see while in a car.

On July 28, the bicycle officer was able to assist the department’s traffic team by watching from the side of the street and calling out violations to officers driving patrol cars during a saturation patrol, which resulted in 17 seatbelt and speeding citations on Main Street.