Knightdale looking at ways to patrol new park, greenway

mhankerson@newsobserver.comNovember 1, 2013 

— As the Mingo Creek Greenway nears completion and the second phase of Knightdale Station Park begins, Knightdale officials are beginning to discuss the best ways to keep the locations safe and patrolled by law enforcement.

At their last meeting, the town’s Public Safety Committee began looking at options to patrol the 70-acre park and the 2.5-mile trail.

Right now, police officers patrol the park on foot. Police Chief Jason Godwin told the committee he would prefer something that allows police to patrol for longer periods of time and gets officers out of their vehicles to interact more with park visitors.

The discussion also considered what could be used for the greenway when it is completed and vehicles that can be used for more than just patrolling.

Godwin suggested purchasing more bikes and training more officers to supplement the three bike officers the department currently has.

The bikes could be kept at the park and would make it easy for officers to engage residents in conversation, a key part of the department’s community policing efforts.

Hidden costs of bike patrolling

Bikes, however, would have a hidden cost and it could be a big one.

Godwin said right now, the weather makes patrolling on bike comfortable but when the summer comes, it would be too hot for officers to patrol in the uniforms the department currently uses. He suggested that officers patrolling on bikes have another uniform with shorts and reflective patches during warmer months of the year.

With three bike officers now, having an extra uniform isn’t too much more money. But Godwin said if they decide to use bikes to patrol the park, he wants to get all his officers bike certified which would mean they would also all need a second uniform when the weather gets warmer.

Council member and public safety committee chairman Jeff Eddins said it wouldn’t be feasible to get a second uniform for all officers. He suggested looking at other vehicles for officers to patrol and suggested that officers patrol on foot for shorter periods of time.

Bikes also must be adjustable for officers’ varying heights, which means the bikes may be more expensive. Godwin’s department looked at some models to present to the board, but he told the group he was open to looking for more.

One model runs about $1,300 for just the bike. Another model, which includes safety features like lights, runs about $2,100.

Godwin said he is open to looking at used models and what he presented was just some research to start the planning process.

Accessing the full greenway

In addition to patrolling the park, the public safety committee has started discussing options to patrol the Mingo Park Greenway, which should be completed in early 2014.

The committee discussed purchasing a vehicle for emergencies next budget year and also considered a small utility vehicle to help with routine patrols.

Police can access the park with their regular vehicles but the cars take up the whole trail. Godwin showed the committee two utility vehicles, one electric and one non-electric.

The non-electric model cost $15,000. The electric option cost slightly less, but only goes about 40 mph when fully charged.

The utility vehicles would not be used in emergencies since emergency vehicles can make their way back into the greenway, but they would make sure residents could see the police patrolling the area, which is important for safety, councilman James Roberson said.

“(The vehicles) are a deterrent for criminals and draw people in (to) develop and strengthen community ties,” Roberson said.

The committee will present their final choice to the town council, which must approve the plan before purchasing any vehicles to help with patrols.

Committee members said they wanted to try to have something in place by the time the greenway is complete, but there is no timeline for purchasing other patrol vehicles.

Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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