Police target downtown with more officers on bicycles

Police target downtown with more officers on bicycles »Play Video
The City of Eugene plans to increase the number of bicycle officers assigned to downtown.

EUGENE, Ore. - Police are on a roll downtown with a new strategy for crime prevention in downtown Eugene.

Sgt. Terry Fitzpatrick said for years, two officers on bikes have been assigned downtown along with temporary officers for summer only.

That is about to change.

"We're going to be replacing those temporary officers with four other permanent officers, so we're going to have six full-time bike officers downtown," said Sgt. Terry Fitzpatrick.

Money the city used to spend on payments for downtown parking garages is paying for the program.   

Fitzpatrick wants to clamp down on fights, public drinking and gang activity. Even people doing nothing illegal may get some attention.

He points out a likely candidate for a visit from a police officer on a bike.

"He's got a sign says 'need pot.' How would you like to bring your kids by that guy?" Fitzpatrick said.

To help make the program work, an old SWAT team van is getting new paint and a new life as the new downtown jail van to take offenders rounded up by bike police to jail.

The plan by next spring is to have nine officers on bikes in the downtown core area.  Fitzpatrick said the goals are two-fold:

  • To make downtown safer
  • To change the culture

"With any large scale problems," said Officer Tim Hayward, "it's going to take time and some creative policing to address the issues and get them to a reasonable level, but we are seeing a definite improvement."

"When you bring the good people in," Fitzpatrick said, "the criminal element doesn't like to be there because their behavior's not tolerated."

Fitzpatrick may borrow ideas from the East 13th district near the University of Oregon campus, such as bans on dogs and skateboards on sidewalks.

Another thought: pipe in non-stop classical music as a crime deterrent.

"Mozart or the Eugene Opera," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm willing to try anything."