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Police work on 2 wheels

The Farmington Police Department's newest tool in the fight against crime has disc brakes, heavy-duty suspension, 24 gears ... and pedals.

On Monday, Farmington City Council members gave chief Brian Lindquist approval to buy the city's first police bike, a heavy-duty mountain bike Lindquist said will allow police to get around the city's parks more easily and make them more accessible to Farmington residents.

He also expects using pedal power will help save the department money as gas prices continue to rise. With five officers each week spending half a shift on the bike the department could save between $50 and $80 a week, Lindquist said.

The idea for the patrol bike originally came from police officer Andrew VanDorn. He raised the possibility with Lindquist, and when city administrator Peter Herlofsky approached Lindquist recently looking for ideas on how to save on gas, Lindquist passed the idea on.

Lindquist also expects the new bike to help police officers patrol in areas they haven't always been able to reach.

Police have seen an increase recently in the number of complaints involving kids trespassing on railroad property, moving signs or barricades onto train tracks and playing chicken with trains. Police can get into the areas where problems have been reported, Lindquist said, but not without making it obvious they're coming and giving kids a chance to run.

"We get complaints from the railroad people that go through. There's been some damage down there," Lindquist said. "Obviously, we travel by car.... It's difficult to get in there to keep an eye on what they're doing. This will aid immensely."

The new patrol bike, a mountain bike outfitted specifically for police use, could fix that. Lindquist expects it will also give police officers easier access to the city's trail system and he likes the idea it will remove the glass window that typically separates officers patrolling in cars from residents with a concern to report -- or from the smells and sounds that might alert them to something going on.

"You get a lot better perspective of what's going on around you," Lindquist said. "It's different in a squad car. You've got the computer going, you've got the radio squawking at you. On the bike, you are out there. There's no barriers."

Lindquist said officers will go out on bike patrol as often as possible, though he plans to always keep at least two officers patrolling in squad cars to ensure police can respond to calls quickly. It will be largely up to the officers to decide where and when to take the bike out.

"They know where the problems are," he said.

Eight or nine officers have already expressed interest in using the bike.

The roughly $900 dollars council members signed off on Monday will pay for the bike, which comes outfitted with strobe lights, a trunk bag and a helmet; a headlight; eight pairs of shorts for police officers; and an additional helmet.

The department will pay for the bike with money originally set aside for a display case in the lobby of the police station.

Council members were enthusiastic Monday about the opportunities the new bike creates.

"I think it's an excellent idea even without the gas price issue," council member David McKnight said. "I can't wait to see the officers out there on bikes sneaking up on (people)."