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The Santa Barbara Police Department is currently participating in a seven-week pilot program with Segway of Santa Barbara to deter- mine whether or not scooter technology will benefit patrol officers.
The trial runs of the self-balancing, two- wheeled vehicles began on May 15 and will continue for seven weeks, after which the SBPD will decide whether or not to adopt the Segway for use on patrol. Segway of Santa Barbara has provided the SBPD with two different models to test, both of which cost between $6,000 and $7,000, and can reach thrilling speeds of up to 12.5 miles per hour.
If implemented, the scooter patrol would cover Santa Barbara’s Downtown Corridor, Milpas Street and the Waterfront area.
According to SBPD Public Information Officer Sergeant Riley Hardwood, officers report that many onlookers seem to find the trial amusing.
“[Some officers have] had some folks give them strange looks or, you know, find it kind of funny to see an officer on a Segway, but maybe that might be something over time — if we do get them [and] utilize them — that people will be accustomed to seeing,” Harwood said.
Segways have been effectively employed by a number of law enforcement agencies nationwide. Harwood said he hopes the use of Segways will make police presence more well-rounded. “What people anticipated [was] that maybe … the use of Segways might fill kind of a niche [between] foot patrol and, say, bike patrol,” Harwood said.
Hardwood said bicycle patrol officers have the ability to maneuver swiftly though congested areas like the Downtown Corridor but are limited to streets rather than sidewalks. According to Hardwood, Segways, which are categorized under pedestrians, could prove to be the optimal medium between the two.
“Because [Segways] are motorized … [they] are able to cover a larger geographic area and have a greater ability to respond to calls for service than someone simply on foot,” Hardwood said.
Hardwood said the Downtown Organization, a group that represents all businesses in the Downtown Corridor, are strong supporters of the initiative because their location makes them vulnerable to street crime. Hardwood said the decision to purchase Segways for the department will hinge primarily on its finan- cial ability to do so. And according to Hardwood, the addition of Segways would likely involve donations from organizations including the Santa Barbara Police Foundation and the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara, organizations that often donate equipment to the
SBPD. “[It] really depends on the kind of money that we can find in our budget, depending on what value we ultimately [see] in them,” Hardwood said. “Even if we do like them, we have to make sure that the costs of having them are outweighed by the benefits.”
However, Hardwood said if vehicle, bicycle and foot patrol methods remain efficient in serving the community, Segways will be unnecessary.