Ten Pinal County sheriff’s deputies are now cruising around on bicycles in an effort to be more stealthy in catching criminals and better able to chase down suspects who flee into the desert.
The bike patrol program was launched last month in the Johnson Ranch/San Tan Heights area, where population growth has forced the sheriff’s office to expand its coverage to combat crime, officials said.
Another 11 deputies are expected to complete the 40-hour bike-patrol training and ride in such areas as Arizona City, Gold Canyon, Queen Valley and Saddlebrooke, Sheriff Chris Vasquez said.
The program is a multi-prong approach to law enforcement and allows officers to easily maneuver through parking lots, streets and the desert, and be visible in communities where they can communicate with residents, officials said.
The bicycle cops can also see things without being seen — which has already paid off in arrests, sheriff’s Sgt. Stormee Wallace said.
In late June, two bicycling deputies watched a drug deal take place in the Johnson Ranch area and were able to ride up on a person selling drugs out of a vehicle and a buyer outside. The arrest resulted in the seizure of 1.3 grams of cocaine and the booking of a man wanted on a $50,000 warrant from New Mexico, where he was sought for selling drugs.
“Had that been a patrol vehicle they wouldn’t have been able to actually come up on the car without being seen,” she said. “But on the bike, they were able to watch everything from a safe distance and make an arrest.”
During another recent encounter, deputies rode up next to a group of juveniles drinking alcohol outside the Wal-Mart in the San Tan area. The teens didn’t realize the deputies had approached them and were cited for underage consumption.