Everett bike patrol put on hold

EVERETT – Ken Schoener doesn’t notice more crime around his downtown Everett business, but he said he’s seen fewer police officers.

The Everett Police Department is without its downtown bicycle patrol, which was suspended about four months ago because more officers were needed for regular patrols, Everett police Capt. Bill Deckard said.

“The bike patrol would keep people moving,” said Schoener, who said he often has to shoo hoodlums from behind his business, Papi’s pizzeria, at 1816 Hewitt Ave.

“I’m an advocate for the bike patrol, and for a higher police presence,” he said.

Everett deputy chief Jim Seaman said there is no timetable to reinstate the bike patrol. It depends on how quickly new officers can be trained, and whether anyone else is injured or retires, he said.

“We are planning to put the unit back in operation as soon as we can,” he said.

The four-man bike patrol covered a 32-block area containing the Everett Events Center, the Snohomish County government offices and the downtown area. The territory is bordered by Grand Avenue to the west, Everett Avenue to the north, Broadway to the east and Pacific Avenue to the south.

Police took reports on more than 700 incidents in the area in 2004. Excluding incidents at the jail, police investigated 63 assaults, more than 80 thefts, 63 vehicle thefts, 39 vehicle prowls and 31 narcotics violations, according to a Herald analysis of police data.

The greatest concentrations of reported crimes were on Hewitt and Colby avenues, records show.

Police haven’t noticed a change in crime since the bike patrol was pulled, Deckard said. Statistics were not available for the number of reports taken this year.

“Our operations division has done an exceptional job to fill any void left by (the bike patrol),” Deckard said. “There are still incidents there that we’ll have to work to solve and correct.”

Unexpected retirements earlier this year forced the department to sideline the bicycle unit, Deckard said. Training new officers has been difficult because police academy classes have been full, he said.

In the meantime, the department needs officers to respond to 911 calls more than it needs the bike patrol, Deckard said.

Officers still patrol downtown the old-fashioned way when time and staffing allows, Deckard said. Officers walk the streets at times during the day and night, and sometimes even ride on bicycles for an hour or so.

A downtown tenant has also hired an officer to stand guard on Hewitt Avenue where several restaurants serve dinner.

“That area appears to be growing, and with that, you’re going to see more people out, and the more people that come out, you’re going to see more officers out, walking on Hewitt and interacting with the businesses,” Deckard said.

He said the bike patrol allows police to “interact with people and businesses, and to make more of a human contact than the officers who are driving from call to call.”

Marilyn Rosenberg, owner of Zippy’s Java Lounge, said she’s noticed less commotion around her business since the bike patrol was cut. She said she’s seen more police officers walking the streets than she used to.

“Things seem to be better now,” Rosenberg said. “People don’t want to be doing things when they know they might be being watched.”

Closer to the waterfront, Anthony Betz, the late shift manager at Gold’s Gym, said more of his patrons have complained of their cars being broken into since the bike patrol was shelved.

“I wish there could be more of a police presence down here,” he said.

Schoener said officers are still doing a good job downtown, but he looks forward to the return of the bicycle patrols, he said.

“They’re quiet, and they can ride right up on you and catch people in the alley,” he said. “It’s a quiet presence, it can go everywhere.”

Reporter Scott Pesznecker: 425-339-3436 or spesznecker@heraldnet.com.

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