Lansdale Police Department's bike patrol will have more officers getting around town to fight crimes, thanks to the Lansdale Area Fundraising Society.
On Saturday afternoon, LAFS donated a new $1,350 bicycle to the department, along with a $930 donation to its D.A.R.E. program.
The check will be used to pay for the bike, purchased at Scooter's Bike Shop in Souderton.
The donations were made possible from proceeds garnered at various LAFS-sponsored events and programs, like the Lansdale Beer Tasting Festival and the recent calendar sale featuring photographs of Lansdale landmarks and its people.
The idea to donate a new bicycle to the police department came from a discussion Councilman Steve Malagari had with officers at last year's Oktoberfest.
"I was having a conversation with a few of the officers, and noticed (Officer) Tim Cornelius on a bike. I asked how many bikes they have, if they need new ones. We were looking for some different ways to give back to the community, and the way we came up with was donating a new bike. It will be well used and well utilized and it will serve them well," said Malagari, who also sits as one of eight LAFS board members.
Cornelius said the bike patrol is made up of patrol officers trained at a 4-day school run by the International Police Mountain Biking Association. The training, he said, teaches officers about patrol, maintenance, and community policing.
"It works tremendously in our borough setting. Due to the fact of the business district, we're like a small city," Cornelius said. "As bike officers, we can get to calls a lot faster than some marked cars can."
Cornelius said the bike officers patrol not just the roadways, but trails and parks as well.
And even the bikes are not your typical bike — one unique feature is the absence of the ratchet sound that typical bikes have when coasting. It allows police to be more silent in their patrols.
"Officers don't have to get out of the car and walk. We can ride back in the park systems to patrol for crime," he said. "I love being a bike officers. I can ride for days."
Chief Robert McDyre said the new bicycle is something that was needed to update the bike division of the department.
"This is probably one of our best tools," he said. "To make officers approachable on the street is incredible. That's how I get good feedback. We meet the needs of the community so much better with the bikes."
The bike patrol was formed in 1997. In the beginning, there were about six bike officers. Yet, the officers got older and they waned from riding for the bike patrol.
"We're going to bring six to eight trained, younger guys in to extend the bike program," McDyre said. "In the summer and spring, you are going to see two officers out every day."
All in all, there are 24 officers on the police force at present in Lansdale. Prior to the new council regime in 2009 — the same year McDyre became chief — the force was reduced to 19 officers.
"The council in 2009 restored manpower up to 24. We were'nt able to use the bike patrol for about five years," McDyre said. "We reinstituted in 2009-2010."
McDyre said the bike patrol has been a major factor in the 30 percent decline in crime in the borough within the past three years, compared to drug enforcement efforts and community policing.
"We're going through all facets to reduce crime and improve the community," McDyre said.
Lansdale Mayor Andy Szekely said the $1,060 donated Saturday to the police department's D.A.R.E. program was made from proceeds of calendar sales.
Last year, LAFs funded the production of 100 calendars at $10 each. The calendars were sold at various locations in Lansdale.
Read about the Lansdale calendar sales at this link.
"The total amount raised was $1,060 for D.A.R.E., and the total D.A.R.E. program is about $3,000 (in annual operation costs)," Szekely said. "Hopefully, we can continue calendar sales, open it up a bit and raise the full amount to support the program."
LAFS is a nine-person nonprofit board, with eight active members: Malagari, Szekely, Drew Stockmal, Ray Liberto, Mike Parzynski, Mike Panachyda, Molly Whetstone and president Rege McKenzie.
Stockmal said most of the proceeds donated Saturday were garnered from the Beer Fest.
Stockmal said LAFS is ramping up for the Lansdale Beer Tasting Festival on June 22, and the second annual Molly Maguire's St. Patrick's Day "Get Lucky Miler" in Lansdale.
"We'll have some surprises in the fall," he said.