09/04/07 — Goldsboro police get new wheels

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Goldsboro police get new wheels

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on September 4, 2007 1:46 PM

Goldsboro police recently got some help to better chase down crime -- literally.

The department's new Segway Personal Transporter, a transportation machine that officers ride like they would a scooter, was an $8,000 gift from the Downtown Goldsboro Devel-opment Corp.

The unit was purchased with municipal service district tax funds, DGDC Director Julie Thompson said.

"We purchased them so that we would have better coverage and control downtown," Ms. Thompson said. "It's a good outreach effort between the police and the owners downtown. People can see the officers much easier on the Segway, and they are much more agile than foot patrol."

The GPD borrowed two transporters from the state in May to experiment with the units in downtown Goldsboro, and in June, DGDC made the buy.

Ms. Thompson added that the Segway was considered a luxury item, which is why the department could not use their funds to purchase it.

GPD Maj. Michael Hopper said the Segway will increase response time, coverage and visability in the downtown area.

"You' re a little ways off the ground, and it is so quiet that you can cover a whole lot of ground pretty well," he said. "The officers love it, especially the ones that do the foot patrol downtown."

Ms. Thompson said downtown businessowners also like the new equipment since it allows the area to be better-policed.

One of the problems with the Segway is that it can't climb stairs, but its all-terrain tires make the unit great for both outside and inside. Because it reaches a top speed of about 12 mph, officers on the Segway are able to catch people who would normally get away or to see crimes they might miss driving by in a patrol car.

"It doesn't seem that fast, but when you see them zooming by you, it's fast," Hopper said.

Foot patrol officers, whom Hopper said are usually the new officers coming on to the force, are the ones operating the Segway unit.

So far, Hopper said, officers have not arrested anyone via the Segway, but they have stopped a few people.

"If you take off running and the officer is on a Segway, they are going to catch up with you pretty quick," he said.

The Segways are used for public events as well. With success at the Center Street Jams, the department looks forward to utilizing the units even more. Hopper foresees the use of Segways to increase all over, especially at housing units and even on the bicycle patrol.

"(Other police departments) use them at airports and colleges," he said.

Ms. Thompson said Goldsboro police Chief Tim Bell suggested the purchase of the Segway to her and the DGDC after attending a conference and learning about success stories in other cities like Raleigh.

Hopper hopes to have three units in the near future.

"They hold a 12-hour charge," he said. "If we had three, we would have one for the day, one for the night and one as a reserve."

The DGDC is ready to help.

"We are hoping to purchase another one soon, but we don't have the funds right now," Ms. Thompson said.

The next Segway will cost around $6,500, she said, because much of the first unit's cost came with many one-time purchases such as a trailer.

"We are helping them find grant money or even speaking to private groups who are interested," she said.

Segways seem to be complex machines, but they are easy to learn, Hopper said.

"They will keep you balanced," he said. "If you want to go left, you lean left. If you want to go right, lean right. It doesn't take long to get used to it."

The officers go through training and practice riding the machines around the police department before using them in the field.

But just to be safe, Hopper said, the officers wear helmets.

"We haven't had any serious accidents with them," he said. "We just need to be careful about going over curbs, but most of the curbs are handicap accessible downtown anyway."

Even though the Segway raises the officer off of the ground about a foot, Hopper said it doesn't stop citizens from calling on them for help.

"The officers are very approachable on them," he said.