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Bellevue Police creates bike unit to respond to changing crime patterns in city

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BELLEVUE, Wash. -- The Bellevue Police Department says the city's streets are a little safer now that officers have started patrols on bicycles.

The department hopes the bike officers will be able to respond better to car prowls and drug crimes, which have been on the rise in recent years.

The manager at Safeway found out just how useful it is to have bike officers, when she called police to report a shoplifter Friday afternoon.

“It’s super useful, they were here within a minute,” says Jodi Davis. “It was super fast.”

The officers tracked down the suspect quickly, because they didn’t have to worry about getting through traffic on city streets. They say that’s just one of the benefits to being on a bike.

“We’ll be much more stealth, able to sneak up on people,” says officer Lizzy Barker. “And it will let citizens feel safer in the community.”

They’ll also be able to go places they couldn’t before and talk to more people. Officers say they arrested one man for drug possession, after stopping to check on some people hanging out by the Transit Center.

“When we checked their names, one subject had a warrant,” says Lt. Travess Forbush. “Then in his backpack, he had heroin and meth.”

People who live and work in downtown Bellevue say they appreciate officers doing something about those kinds of crimes.

“There are some sketchy things that happen, so I think it's nice to have the extra patrolling,” says Tristen Nelson.

“I think it's going to help, I really do,” adds Davis. “Because they can see more when they're on their bikes than when they're in their cars.”

Officers say they’re responding to different types of crimes now, often related to drugs or the increasing homeless population. That’s why the city decided to restore funding for bike patrols, after disbanding the unit six years ago.

“People don't want to have to watch dope deals going down, they don't want to watch people doing that kind of thing when they're just trying to go home,” says Forbush.

Four officers are on two wheels now, but another couple may hit the streets by this summer.

“It’s hopefully going to make an impact. The chief always talks about reducing the fear of crime, that's what we hope to do.”

Bellevue’s previous bike unit was disbanded in 2011, after the economic downturn. The officers who didn’t have previous bike experience have been training with Seattle’s bike officers.