Chattanooga police officers covering Sector 3 say they'll prevent crime in neighborhoods better with a part-time bicycle patrol.
This month, neighborhood organizations and businesses donated bike racks, helmets and other gear for the patrol's four new bicycles, which should hit the streets by mid-April, once the police department purchases bike uniforms.
"It's a tool. We saw a need," said Capt. Randy Dunn, who's been working toward a Sector 3 bike patrol for three years.
Sector 3 stretches across eastern Hamilton County from Chickamauga Lake and Missionary Ridge to the county and state line, covering Brainerd and East Brainerd, up Highway 58 to Harrison and Ooltewah, too.
Dunn said Sector 3's bicycles will be best put to use preventing neighborhood crimes and helping officers build relationships in the communities they serve, "to stop and talk and find out what's going on in neighborhoods. You're cruising through the neighborhood, the neighbors see you," he said.
The bicycles also will be used in sting operations, Dunn said.
"Nobody hears you coming. You're invisible. They'll ride right up on you before you know it," he said.
The city's police department has an existing bike patrol that functions mostly downtown, he said. Sector 3 officers volunteered to be part of the new bike patrol and completed special bike training.
Dunn said that once the city's 23 new hires complete police academy this spring, with another 22 graduating in June, the manpower will be in full force, giving Sector 3 two to four officers on bikes at a time. They will not be on a schedule so criminals will be kept guessing, he said.
Dunn thanked Jenni Berz for coordinating donations for the bikes and gear, which were bought from Owens Cyclery in Hixson.
The bikes, worth $1,000 each, are equipped with blue lights and a siren, and Dunn said motorists should pull over to the right when approached by a police bike, just as with a police car.