TEMPERANCE - Law enforcement has long embraced bicycles as community policing tools that are effective in fighting crime.
The same concepts are being embraced by Bedford Township's Ordinance Department.
James Brunt, the township's part-time ordinance officer, has taken up bicycling to patrol the township from April through October.
"Bikes allow us to go places that a traditional patrol vehicle cannot go," Mr. Brunt said. "They also give us the opportunity to see and hear things that might be missed while we are in a car."
As the ordinance officer, Mr. Brunt is responsible for enforcing township regulations and codes, ranging from clamping down on illegal skateboarding on streets and sidewalks and door-to-door solicitors to silencing blaring stereos.
The ordinance patrol unit swung into action in 2005 after Mr. Brunt and Supervisor Walt Wilburn outlined a program for what they thought would be an effective use of bicycles.
"We discussed things that might be good for Bedford Township. This was one of the things that we came up with," Mr. Wilburn said. "We are trying to be more visible and approachable in the township. If you are on a bike, people can walk up to you and ask questions."
Mr. Brunt, 35, joined the township's ordinance department about five years ago.
A 1997 graduate of Michigan State University and an Ida Township native, he works for the township about 20 hours a week. His full-time job is with a firm that does background investigations for the federal government.
The bicycles are used to patrol township parks and subdivisions.
Because they are quiet, bicycles help in catching vandals and in stopping illegal activities in parks and neighborhoods.
"Bikes have a big advantage in that no one can see us until we are on top of them," he said.
The bikes also are used to monitor activities during large events, including Walk Bedford, township fireworks displays, Relay For Life, Samaria Days, Downtown Temperance Days, Summerfest Parade, Charity Cruises, and trick or treat.
"People love to see us out there. They stop us all the time to talk," Mr. Brunt said. "We pretty much use the bike patrol for every community event."
Mr. Wilburn said the bikes allow officers to move freely and easily among crowds and get to places where cars can't go.
"The program has worked out very well. I think it has been very successful," Mr. Wilburn said.
A bicycle carrier on a township vehicle allows the ordinance officer to transport the bike to different areas. He also can communicate with the county central dispatch with a portable radio.
College interns join the bike unit for the summer.
Michael D'Agastino, a criminal justice major at Monroe County Community College, is the fifth student to ride with Mr. Brunt.
The 19-year-old Ida resident said he believes his experience working with Mr. Brunt will assist him in getting a job in law enforcement.
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