YOUNGSTOWN - It's not unusual to see people pedaling down University Plaza or along Lincoln Avenue - especially during warmer weather.
But take a closer look and you can identify the newest bicyclists at Youngstown State University by their campus police uniforms. These days, campus police are riding around campus as part of the new YSU Police Department Bike Patrol.
Although YSU police started patrolling campus over the weekend, YSU police Chief John Beshara and Sgt. Dennis Godoy introduced the new YSUPD Bike Patrol at a news conference on Monday.
Beshara explained two advantages of a bike patrol is that it is cost-effective and allows officers to maneuver more effectively through campus.
"We're always looking for ways to better serve and protect the campus community," Beshara said. "Putting officers on bicycles will allow us as a police department to be more effective in getting close up and personal with students, employees and visitors to campus."
The YSUPD has purchased three mountain bikes equipped with siren horns for the new patrol. The new unit was used for the first time at the YSU Summer Festival of the Arts on campus Saturday and Sunday. The bike patrol will be in addition to car and foot patrols currently in place, Beshara said.
Youngstown State University on Monday introduced its new YSUPD Bike Patrol, which is working in collaboration with bike patrols from the Youngstown Police Department, Mill Creek MetroParks Police and the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office. Shown here are Youngstown police Lt. William Ross, left, and YSU police Chief John Beshara.
Tribune Chronicle / Virginia Shank
He said that officers will be assigned to the bicycle patrol on a voluntary basis, but must express in writing their interest in participating in the program. They also are required to undergo a physical evaluation.
Officers will be trained by a certified bicycle patrol instructor or will attend an approved basic police bicycle training / instruction course. Beshara said that currently there are no state mandates and / or uniform training standards for bicycle patrols. Officers will wear official YSUPD Bike Patrol uniforms. The patrol will attempt to operate year-round, except during severe or inclement weather.
Beshara said his department will be working in partnership with other local law enforcement agencies, including the Mahoning County Sheriff's Office, Youngstown Police Department and Millcreek MetroParks Police, that have bicycle patrols. Those units may be used at YSU when needed to supplement the university's bike patrol, he said.
"It's actually a way to expand the bike patrol effort across the community," he said. "We will assist them, and they will assist us as needed."
Lt. William Ross, who heads up the YPD Bike Patrol, said patrolling on bicycles helps officers get closer to the community and gain access to areas, such as paths and walkways between buildings, they cannot access with vehicles. His department has been operating its bike patrol for just more than a year.
"You have foot patrol for those areas, but it's a lot faster and easier to move around on bikes," he said.
David Moss, a deputy with the Mahoning County Sheriff's Office, said the sheriff's office had an effective bike patrol from 1997 to 2000, when it fell by the wayside. He said officials saw the benefits and recently decided to reinstate the effort.
Godoy, who approached Beshara with the idea to institute the bike patrol, said the downside is that officers cannot transport prisoners. However, the procedure would be for them to call for backup to assist in that situation.
"This is something I've personally wanted to see on campus for a long time," Godoy said. "We will more than make up for the cost of the bikes in the savings we'll have on gas. There are just so many benefits."