Officer A.J. Martin on bike patrol during a Fighting Illini football game on Sept. 10, 2016.
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URBANA, Ill. – The University of Illinois Police Department will again be bolstering its bicycle unit thanks to a generous grant from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Dads Association.
The 2019 grant for $1,930 from the Dads Association to UIPD builds on an existing partnership. In 2017, the Dads Association provided a similar grant to UIPD to purchase a new bicycle for police patrols.
Bicycle units are particularly valuable on a college campus, where some high-traffic pedestrian areas are not immediately accessible to a traditional police vehicle. Bicycle patrols also make it easier to engage campus community members in conversations or to help with questions students may have.
The 2017 grant provided for purchase a new bicycle, which allowed the department to add officers to the unit. From April 2019 to September 2019, the bicycle unit conducted 29 special patrols totaling 170.5 hours and also patrolled events like football games and concerts.
“The bicycle unit does every function a regular officer in a squad car does, except it makes us more accessible. We can go places where a squad car cannot,” said U. of I. Police Officer Kent Jones. “It gets me out, it makes me much more accessible. It’s much easier to do one-on-one with our students.”
The 2019 grant will add yet another bicycle to the department and allow University Police the opportunity to increase patrols and further expand the unit.
“These patrols occur in areas where a squad car would not be able to access, like on the Quad, walking paths, alleyways and certain areas around athletic facilities,” said U. of I. Police Lt. John Brown. “Additionally, bicycle patrols make our officers more accessible to people who want to talk, and bike officers participate in safety outreach programs.”
Recently, bicycle officers spoke to students about safety and bicycle registration at Quad Day, and they assisted other university and city of Urbana organizations in installing free lights on students’ bicycles to keep them safer when riding at night.
“We have plans to add new bicycle officers to the unit, but we will need the proper equipment for them to do their jobs safely and effectively,” Brown said. “The Dads Association is helping us to do that, and we are extremely grateful for their assistance and partnership in maintaining the safety of our students and our campus community.”