The Kenai Police Department has added two bicycles to its patrol fleet ahead of the tourist season.
The department invested $3,000 in the bikes, which were bought with money seized in drug cases, Kenai Police Chief Dave Ross said.
The bikes will primarily be used by summer temporary officers, who are hired each year to expand the police department’s reach during the busier months.
The five temporary officers will patrol active areas, such as downtown, as well as public spaces like parks, schools and trails, Lt. Ben Langham said. “We have set up spots that we would like to make sure we are hitting once a day.”
Langham said the bicycles will allow officers to have more one-on-one contact with the public and cover areas not easily accessible to police vehicles.
“By getting in a truck you’re driving past this trail, and you’re not having that first-hand contact,” Langham said. That personal contact “is really valuable,” he said.
While there hasn’t been a lot of crime on the city’s trails, the department has received complaints about loitering and potential drug use in public spaces, Ross said.
Temporary officers go through training on all the police basics — how to use radios, Tasers and pepper spray, drive patrol cars, write tickets and handcuff suspects.
“We have pretty strict training that we have to go through, so that we’re able to use everything effectively and efficiently,” Temporary Enforcement Officer Gabe Boyle said. “So we can be safe with it.”
Now serving his fourth summer as a temporary officer, Boyle said he spends much of his time dealing with minor violations in areas heavily trafficked by tourists.
“We are basically at the beaches like 90 percent of our day, because there are so many people down there dipnetting through the month of July,” he said. “We have to be a presence down there so the officers can deal with the heavier stuff that goes along in town with the rush of people.”
Sarah Morrison, who is returning for her third summer as a temporary enforcement officer, said the public response to the new bikes has been positive.
“Even just today, when we were riding our bikes, someone just stopped and said, ‘Hey, awesome, nice job. It’s good to see you guys out,’” Morrison said. “The public definitely feels our presence and I think it’s great that they appreciate it.”