Police and Parking Services of Sonoma State University reinstated the police bicycle patrol on campus this fall, authorized by the chief of police. After years of drifting away from the service aspect of policing on campus, the bicycle patrol is here to stay.
Police Officer Eric Wilde will now be seen with his bicycle patrolling the campus, including the most secluded parts where most people would not expect there to be a police presence.
“A good part of the bicycle is that I can get to places that cars cannot, and places people don’t expect to see cops,” said Wilde. “It’s cool being on a bike because not only are the students not used to seeing a officer on a bike on campus, but a lot of the staff are shocked that we have the bike patrol back.”
At the beginning of 2014, police and parking services put this program together as part of an overall community strategy plan to be more efficient and provide better service.
“The main purpose here is to provide a safe environment so students can concentrate on learning and their academic mission, not so much safety,” said Nathan Johnson, chief of police and executive director for risk management. “Police and Parking Services was looking at ways we can be more efficient and provide better services. We wanted to increase that part of the service, by getting out there and building relationships with community members and letting people put faces with names.”
Recently there have been several accounts of assaults at Sonoma State and on the Copeland Creek trail. Many students have avoided walking to campus, and instead driving to campus. Psychology major Samantha Ann Schumann, is one of those students.
“I moved next to campus specifically so that I can walk to school, but I don’t feel safe,” said Schumann. “I think it would be a really good idea to have police on campus either walk or bike around. I never see any police unless they are driving around.”
The police bicycle program was part of the campus oriented partnership policing program (COPPS) on campus back in 2003, but began to lose its presence over the years. The program is geared toward community outreach and crime prevention on campus.
“The bicycle program is really great because it brings police officers a little closer to our population and community,” said instructional technician John-Scott Forester. “It provides an opportunity to engage some kind of conversation and dialogue with people and it’s really great for patrolling creeks and out of the way places where patrol cars can’t reach. It really allows a greater presence of the police, it’s closer to the community; people lose their fear of the police and start to realize that they are people serving public safety.”
Wilde has been on the police force at Sonoma State University for almost three and a half years before being in charge of the crime prevention, community outreach programs on campus and being a certified bicycle officer.
Wilde completed the “Arrive Alive” campaign on Sept. 6 at Sonoma State. The campaign was geared toward educating and enforcing cyclists and pedestrians in the community bicycle safety and violations.
“People shouldn’t be afraid to stop and say hi, or if they have questions about anything,” said Officer Wilde.
Within the coming months, Wilde will be hosting “Safety Week” as part of the community outreach he does on campus. “Safety Week” will be hosted in mid-October and will focus on bicycle safety and security. After the month of October, Wilde has plans of hosting “Coffee With the Cop,” where he will have coffee with students and talk about issues involving bicycles and other local issues.