Acting on a tip from someone in a driver's education car who flagged him down on Massachusetts Street, Lawrence police officer Brian Edwards was off off and pedaling.
Perched on the seat of the department's newest form of transportation, one of four off-white Trek mountain bikes, Edwards rode about half a block to check out a possible car break-in Friday morning.
As it turned out, three young men from the Kansas City area had locked their keys in their car. After suggesting a locksmith and easing their concerns about getting a parking ticket, Edwards pedaled off, followed on another bike by his partner, Jim Winn.
On the department's bike beat, which began Monday, Edwards and Winn are more likely to stop and talk to shoppers than make any arrests.
"We're still police officers, but (violations) are not things we are really going to go after," Edwards said. "If we see a violation, we will. But it's more a good way for us to be in touch with the community. People are more likely to come up to you and talk to you on a bike. They make us less menacing."
THE PROGRAM is still in its infancy, says Lawrence Police Sgt. Kevin Harmon, and is being modified just about every day. Officers, who volunteer for the shifts, are pretty much given free rein on where they patrol.
Officers work the bike beat on a rotating basis, and the pool of volunteers for the patrol continues to increase, Harmon said.
This week, officers generally concentrated on the downtown area; it's much easier to navigate the streets on a bike, they say, and it's easier to keep an eye on skateboarders and bikers who illegally use the sidewalks.
Harmon said patrols also would concentrate on illegal parking in the Oread Neighborhood, apartment complex parking lots that are prone to car burglary and other high-crime areas.
Headlights and taillights allow for night patrols.
"HAVING A bike makes it a lot easier to sneak up on someone," Edwards said.
In their riding, the officers are trying to set an example, Edwards said. They use hand signals, stop at stop signs, stay off the sidewalks and wear helmets.
As for their Trek bikes, Edwards calls them the "Cadillac of bikes." The American-made frames are versatile and durable, said Sharon England, manager of Sunflower Surplus, which had the winning bid for the police department contract.
For a little less than $2,000, the department landed the four bikes, each equipped with headlight and taillight, a rack and carrying case, a water bottle and bracket and a helmet. A Lawrence signmaker designed a "Lawrence police" logo for the top tube of the bike's frame.
The department also bought two car racks that can carry the bikes.
FOR EDWARDS and Winn, who both have old 10-speeds, the 21-speed mountain bikes take some getting used to. Winn struggled with his toe clips, but overall, Friday morning's patrol went smoothly.
In the morning, the officers made a sweep of downtown. They then rode down to Lawrence High School at 19th and Louisiana to talk to a high school driver's education class.
After making a pass by the city pool, Edwards and Winn stopped and chatted with a group of 5- and 6-year-olds from a day camp who were sitting outside the city library.
"It's kind of funny to see a policeman on a bike isn't it?" asked Edwards, whose question drew some shy nods from the children.
"I just enjoy the heck out of this," Winn said. "It's something that has been missing. We've always tried to have a contact with people, but it's hard when you're in a car."