URBANA – The University of Illinois Police Department will be able to expand its bicycle fleet thanks to a $1,895 grant from the University of Illinois Dads Association.
The additional presence is meant to increase police visibility in campus areas inaccessible to patrol vehicles, like the main and Bardeen quads and other high foot-traffic areas. Bicycle officers are also an important presence during special events, like Fighting Illini football games.
“Bicycle officers can cover a lot of ground that a walking patrol officer or vehicle-based officer would not be able to get to on a routine night,” said University of Illinois Police Lt. Joseph McCullough. “And they are more accessible to people who want to talk.”
Three University Police officers completed training through the International Police Mountain Bike Association in July, bringing the total number of officers available for bicycle patrols to nine. However, the department only owns five bicycles.
The Dads Association grant will allow the department to purchase another bicycle and outfit it with the necessary tools, like emergency lights and other equipment. The department will also use its own funding to purchase a second bicycle.
“A huge thanks goes to the Dads Association for making this expansion of our services possible,” McCullough said. “I think our goals align well with theirs in that we’re both looking to maintain a secure environment where students can be successful.”
Department officials are hoping to continue to expand the bicycle unit in the future and explore new, creative uses for bicycle-based officers. The new bicycles will likely be more noticeable beginning in the spring, when the weather is more accommodating to bicycle patrols.
In the meantime, the increased presence is expected to be a useful community outreach and crime prevention tool.
“Bicycle patrols are a very important piece of our overall patrol presence on campus and in areas near campus,” McCullough said. “Between bicycle officers, walking patrols and vehicle units, we will have the appropriate balance of public safety services available at any given time.”