DRACUT — Drive carefully, bicycles are on the road. And police officers may be the ones riding them.
The Police Department has launched its new bike-patrol unit, which has already begun to make its presence known.
Officers on bikes have assisted on a number of arrests, including a recent drug bust on Pleasant Street.
“I was on my bike, and I heard the call so I just took off and assisted on the arrest,” said Officer Jon Goselin, one of six officers assigned to the bike unit. “I was in the vicinity and I got there in less than a minute.”
Dracut resident Bill Fox, who owns Foxco Bicycle Sales and Repair on Bridge Street, donated two 24-speed Specialized Rock Hopper bikes to the department. Chief Kevin Richardson put in a request to purchase two more bikes, which are valued at about $700 each.
“Bill actually approached us and asked if we were interested,” Richardson said. “We had a couple of old bikes that nobody really used anymore because they were kind of obsolete, so we took him up on his offer. It was a very nice gesture.”
Fox, a Dracut resident most of his life, said it was his way of showing gratitude to the department.
“They do so much for the community, and they’re always there for us,” Fox said. “Business has been good, and I’m fortunate enough to be able to do this.”
Six members of the force underwent a three-day training course in Foxboro where they each put as many as 25 miles on the bikes, riding through rough terrain, going down stairs and learning to use the bike as a means of defense.
“They taught us how to use the bike as a shield,” Goselin said. “We did these exercises where somebody comes at you with a knife or a bat. You can put the bike up in front of you or just throw it at the attacker. It’s pretty effective.”
The bikes also allow officers to get into places where cruisers can’t go, like the Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest. Former Police Chief Louis Panas began a similar program about 10 years ago, but for reasons Richardson doesn’t quite understand, the program ceased.
“I started talking to some of the officers about jump-starting the bike unit, and I got a great response,” Richardson said. “Then Bill came forward and offered us the bikes. It was great timing.”
The bike unit consists of Goselin, and officers Robert Richard, Larry Flynn, Jeff Zanelotti, Michael Williams and Derek Scribner.
“It gets the officers out of the cruisers where they can interact more closely with the community,” Richardson said. “And they get a little exercise at the same time.”
Expect to see members of the bike unit at various parks and strip malls or patrolling the neighborhoods in town.
They plan to be at Old Home Day on Sept. 6. Both events will be held at the Daoulas Schools Complex on Lakeview Avenue.
In addition to the bike unit, the department has one motorcycle officer and two dirt-bike officers. With the summer months waning, Richardson said the bike unit will remain active as long as weather permits.
It will start up again in the spring.