POLICE in North Yorkshire are following the lead of London and Los Angeles by setting up a dedicated unit of officers fighting crime on bicycles.
The county force’s Cycle Response Team of one sergeant and seven constables was launched earlier this month on a six-month pilot to offer an alternative to officers going out on foot or in cars.
It is the only unit of its type in the country outside London where officers can be sent out proactively to target areas of North Yorkshire where spikes in crime have been reported.
The officers on marked mountain bikes can also search for missing or wanted people in rural or urban areas much faster than officers on foot and sometimes faster than vehicles.
They can also carry out operations to deter and detect burglaries, vehicle crime and cycle offences or offer a high visibility presence at large scale events and during the evenings in city and town centres.
In the first six days of duty, the team have spent time on patrol in York and Scarborough tackling drug offences, anti-social behaviour, organised crime and burglary.
They have stopped and searched 21 people, resulting in five warnings for cannabis possession, and have made five arrests.
Two people were arrested on suspicion of cycle theft when the cycle team caught up with the suspects and returned the bike to its owner before she realised it had been stolen. They were also arrested on suspicion of drugs possession.
Mr Jones told The Yorkshire Post that the unit, based in Clifton Moor, York, would follow the success of similar units in Los Angeles and Canada, as well as the Metropolitan Police.
He said: “If there is an increase in burglaries in Harrogate or Scarborough and it is at a certain time, what better than eight dedicated officers on bikes who are used to working together? No-one will expect them to be coming, it will surprise people.”
He added that the unit would be working with cyclists to encourage them to stick to the rules of the road. Mr Jones said: “The people who are joining the unit are very fit and healthy and there is nothing they won’t go and do.”
He added: “The new cycle response team is a really positive addition to policing in North Yorkshire and I am confident that they will be a real asset.
“They will give us the capability to respond really quickly and effectively to developing situations and offer a presence and visibility which will be just as reassuring for our communities as it is unnerving for criminals.
“The team have already seen a positive response from the public. There was some really good feedback from residents and businesses on Sunday when they carried out some reassurance patrols in Scarborough on what was an extremely busy weekend.
“They will have a key role in building on the good relationships we already have with our communities and have already gathered some good community intelligence in the short time they have been in operation.”
Sergeant Ray Milligan, who is leading the team, said he was confident it would be a success. He said: “You can engage with people on bikes much more than if you were in cars, it gives something to talk about.”
He said the unit would tackle the rise in offences related to the recent boom in cycling in the region, including the theft of expensive bicycles.
He said after six months the bicycles may be fitted with sirens and blue lights, to avoid road users thinking they are breaking the law by going through red lights when called out to an emergency.
The force says the unit will “offer a high-visibility presence to the community which can help to build relationships with the police and act as a deterrent to criminals”.