In Thompson, Man., where criminals commit the most violent crimes per capita in the country and scientists study extreme cold weather, several RCMP members are swapping their protective patrol cars for bicycles.
It may seem like an odd place for a bike unit, admits Thompson's mayor, Tim Johnston, but Cst. Lisa Wowchuk, a member with the unit, says it's been an effective way to address unruly behaviour in the area.
"In the age of community policing, a bike patrol officer is much more accessible to a citizen than a patrol car driving by," Wowchuk says. "We can also respond much quicker than a patrol car because we have the advantage of stealth and speed."
As a by-product of the bike patrols this past summer, members had a larger presence in the downtown core, which Johnston says comforted not only pedestrians in the area, but also those who live on the streets.
"To me, the bike patrol is about reaching out to the community and sending a positive message to those who view the downtown as a challenge," Johnston says. "By all accounts, I heard nothing but rave reviews from business people and the community about how members were visible."
Members are also using ATVs to patrol the city's 14 kilometres of forested trails, looking for makeshift camps and firepits that can become safety concerns during the area's dry season. But they're also there to put the public at ease.
"A lot of people said they felt safer walking the trail system knowing we were making regular patrols, and they noticed that there were less liquor violations being committed in public," Wowchuk says.
Wowchuk explains that officer safety is taken seriously on the bike patrol unit. Before converting to two wheels, members took the week-long Law Enforcement Bicycle Association training in Winnipeg, which taught them how to not only ride effectively, but also how to conduct police manoeuvres on a bike, including how to pull over a vehicle.
Reprinted with permission from the Pony Express (No. 6, 2013).