CONWAY, Ark. (KTHV) -- The Conway Police Department has taken the training wheels off a new program to reduce crime.
Sunday marked the first day of patrols for the Crime Suppression Unit. Part of the unit’s plan is to increase community policing, which lots of departments are doing. The other half might look more like an afternoon joyride through the park.
David Naylor was one of many people exercising along the Tucker Creek Trail Wednesday afternoon. Now, he and the trails other users will have police officers riding alongside them. One of the unit’s tasks will be to ride bicycles along the city’s many paths.
“Yeah, the place is crowded a lot,” he said. “Weekends, early in the morning, later in the day.”
“It stops any wrongdoing that’s occurring on the bike trails, plus it gets the officers to interact with the community more on a personal level,” Major Chris Harris explained, “instead of just driving by, waving from a vehicle.”
A group of officers rode a training session Wednesday. While only five will be part of the Crime Suppression Unit, Harris said the department is restarting its bike program, so several officers need to learn new riding tactics.
“And you have a lot of parking lots that are desolate,” Harris said, “or you have just the bike trails, alone. So, this way, the officers can ride the bikes, patrol them, and, just, you might sneak up on somebody.”
Naylor said he has never seen any problems while he has been on the Tucker Creek Trail, but that having officers around would only help improve the community. Harris mentioned that some criminals will sneak out of the adjoining neighborhoods onto the trail to make their escape, so an officer on a bike could help make arrests.
“It’s a lot harder to see a bicycle coming up on you than it is a vehicle,” he noted.
When they are not riding Conway’s bike paths, the officers will also be on call for any major problems that come up in the city.
“It’s intelligence-based, from the detective division or the narcotics division,” Harris explained. “So, basically, they’ll say, ‘hey, we have this rash of break-ins in this section of town. Go and try to see what you can do.’”
CPD had a similar unit many years ago, Harris recalled, but the city grew so fast, the department had to abandon it just to cover all the basic patrols. That slowed down efforts to solve some of the tougher crimes.
“We didn’t have the manpower to just stop and just concentrate 100 percent on that,” Harris said.
But the department expanded by ten officers a couple years ago, and the chief of police and other city leaders decided now is the right time to put the unit in motion again.
“We can find a thousand reasons why we can’t do this,” Harris said, “or we can just bite the bullet and pull some officers from different areas and do this. The mayor’s on board with this program, the city council knows about the program, and they’re all for it. And hopefully, in the next year or two or three, when the city, as the city grows, and hopefully we get more officers, we’ll be able to grow this division, as well.”