The city's first bike patrol should hit the streets this weekend.
By PAUL WHEATLEY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A new squad of police officers has traded cruisers for bikes to patrol the city's streets.
The four Youngstown Police Department officers and their well-equipped mountain bikes are formally known as a neighborhood response unit. But some fellow officers are referring to them as Mahoning Blue, in reference to the syndicated bike-cop television show "Pacific Blue" -- now in reruns.
But though "Pacific Blue" officers usually aided the often distressed and barely dressed residents of California, city officials said their bike crew will patrol Youngstown, day and night, to get in touch with residents.
Who's riding: Officers Jeff Roberts, Greg Miller, Mike Anderson and Marc Gillett will ride the $1,200 two-wheelers. They were selected from about 15 applicants, said Lt. Rod Foley, who leads the unit.
Officials said the bike squad is a first for the city and part of a $13,000 program funded by a federal grant.
These aren't your everyday mountain bikes, though. They come outfitted with a rechargeable battery, which looks like a water bottle, that powers everything from flashing lights to sirens.
More accessible: Mayor George McKelvey said he hopes increased visibility and accessibility of the officers will act as a deterrent to crime.
The men went through a week of training on Ohio State University's campus with the university's bike force.
Roberts said he made the switch in transportation because it offered a change of pace.
Officers will take their skills into the streets beginning this weekend at the Greater Youngstown Area SoapBox Derby.
After that, Foley said, they will target problem areas on the city's South Side -- looking for gang activity in the upper Market Street area and prostitution on the street's lower end.