May 17th - 21st is national Bike to Work Week and thanks to a new pilot program at the Department of Community Justice, four probation officers will be doing just that. The program which began on April 26, 2010, offers a new method for probation officers to maintain contact with their most hard-to-reach clients, particularly the homeless. “These offenders tend to congregate in places that are hard to reach by car and may be too time-consuming to walk, “explains Pat Schreiner, a DCJ District Manager who helped to develop the program along with Don Trapp, DCJ manager. Early results show that participating officers like the program and over 80 contacts have already been made in the field by bicycle. The bike patrol made their first arrest on May 12, 2010. Bike patrols will concentrate in downtown Portland where transitional housing services and homeless shelters are located.
When the pilot program was announced, DCJ received more volunteers than there were available spaces. All probation officers that were selected were required to complete a one week Bicycle Training Program which was provided free of charge by the Portland Police Bureau. The Multnomah County pilot program was based on a similar model which began in San Francisco. Carl Goodman, DCJ Assistant Director of Adult Services, says, “We have learned from others who have used bicycles to contact offenders that this method results in an increase in contact, communication and engagement in supervision. We have offenders who are homeless and reluctant to report to the probation office.”
Besides increasing opportunities for closer supervision of transient populations, the program is also environmentally friendly and boasts added health benefits to the officers. The officers are also uniformed and help maintain a conspicuous security presence in the community. The Bike Patrol program will be piloted for the next six months and will be revisited in October.