Smith is the West Jefferson Police Department’s recently installed bike patrolman. The bike patrol was started as an effort to enhance the WJPD’s Community Oriented Policing. In essence, COP is a philosophy of policing where the department and the community develop a partnership to come up with solutions to community problems and increase the amount of trust citizens place with the department, Chief Brian Grogan said.
Grogan went on to explain that the purchase of police equipment and the bicycle was possible through a $1,000 grant from Wal-Mart and a generous contribution from Biking Buddies where the bike itself was purchased. Grogan said the police department appreciates the contributions.
According to Grogan, there are many tactical advantages of an officer on bike as opposed to an officer behind a steering wheel of a patrol car. Due to the absence of a roar of an engine, bicycles give officers the “stealth” advantage and are less visible than a marked patrol car.
With a slumping economy, burglaries have been on an increase nationwide and officer on bike patrol could give an officer a much needed edge while responding to potential break-ins. In most home evasion scenarios, a perpetrator could escape easier if he saw the flashing lights or the roar of a patrol car. An officer on bicycle enables the officer to come onto the scene without the perpetrator expecting it.
The bicycle patrol is also beneficial to an officer’s physical well-being as Smith explained how time spent on the bicycle helps keep him in good shape. While Smith will be enjoying the physical benefits of the bike patrol, he will be responsible for the routine patrol of the downtown area and immediately surrounding residential areas. If Smith encounters a heated situation, he can easily radio for backup and will opt for his patrol car if he needs to respond to a scene quickly or if the scene of a crime is out of a bicycle’s reach.
Although there are many advantages of police biking, Smith noted how the cold and blustery conditions of a High Country winter are not suitable for patrol as the nature of the patrols will hinge on the state of the weather. Smith also stated that once he becomes acclimated to the cool fall nights he will be able to adjust to the weather while on patrol. Chief Grogan has also stated that the bike patrols will be used in the upcoming Halloween Walk behind downtown West Jefferson on Oct. 31 and may even see action during next summer’s annual Christmas in July Festival.
Patrolman Smith has been one of West Jefferson’s finest for approximately one year and nine months and hopes to return to college at Gardner Webb University next semester to finish up his degree in criminal justice as he has already obtained his associate’s degree from Wilkes Community College. When time permits, Smith enjoys several outdoors activities such as fishing and assists his father in the Christmas tree fields of Mountain Top Fraser Firs in Avery County.