The Santa Barbara Police Department will soon begin conducting patrols on Trikkes — foldable three-wheeled electric scooters — in an effort to bridge the gap between foot and bicycle patrol.

After several trial periods between Segways and Trikkes, the Police Department decided go with the electric scooters for their superior maneuverability, lightweight design and lower overall cost. With this new addition, the police force hopes to make officers more approachable and promote greater interaction between deputies and the public.

According to Santa Barbara Police Department spokesman Sgt. Riley Harwood, there are currently four types of transportation used during patrol — foot, bike, motorcycle and vehicles. While foot patrol allows for increased interaction with the community, these officers can only respond to their immediate areas. Bike patrol works better with crowds and allows for quicker transportation than walking, but restricts approachability as officers are required to ride on streets.

With Trikkes, the officers could move quickly while still maintaining a level of interaction with pedestrians, making patrols less intimidating, Harwood said.

“Foot [patrol] has a lot of interaction with the public — people find them approachable and will come up to talk to them about issues. The negative of officers on foot is that he or she can only respond in a timely manner in a small geographical area,” Harwood said.

While bicycles increase an area’s accessibility, they also present some drawbacks, according to Harwood.

“We have found that officers on bikes are good at places with lots of congestion, night life and downtown Santa Barbara,” Hardwood said. “But even with bikes, they are still riding in the streets and folks are not as likely to find them as approachable as someone on the sidewalk. The Trikkes are going to fit in the niche in that the officers [on foot] will have somewhat more mobility to travel.”

Harwood said members of the community responded well to the Trikkes when the department began to use them during an early trial period, yet since these scooters are lighter than Segways and more susceptible to theft, the department will begin with just a few scooters to test effectiveness.

“We received a lot of input/feedback from folks in downtown and business owners … [It] adds to a sense of police present at the area. We like them enough to satisfy the role and we are looking into acquiring some of them.” Harwood said. “The Trikkes — the officers found to be lighter and more portable and also the ability to maneuver and stop better. The downside is that they are much lighter — a concern of it being stolen like bikes.”

John Simpson, president of Trikke Tech, Inc., said the quietness of the Trikkes’ motors will allow police to patrol the community in a stealthier manner.

“The Trikke is really fun. If you’ve ever ridden one, it’s kind of like skiing. The stability of three wheels creates platform and the cambering system turn leans with you while the wheels stay on the ground,” Simpson said. “Some of the comments when tested were that it was great for sneaking up on bad doings and alleyways because it is so quiet.”

Simpson said having a local police department buy his company’s scooters for patrol is an exciting prospect, since the company’s US headquarters is located just north of Santa Barbara in Buellton.

“The outcome was suspected, what did surprise me was when the Santa Barbara Police Department sergeant starts telling me that he looks cool. Police don’t want to look like dorks,” Simpson said. “We know how easy it is to ride and we know that [the Trikkes] are going to get attention.”

A version of this article appeared on page 1 of February 21st 2013′s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
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