Off-duty Springfield Police Division officers will patrol the multi-use trails in the Springfield area to make residents feel safer using them.
The four officers will ride the network of trails until the end of October.
The idea for bike patrols came from the Ohio Department of Health, said Elle Evans-Peterson, Creating Healthier Communities grant coordinator for the Clark County Combined Health District.
“Two-thirds of the county are either overweight or obese and the majority of them are also sedentary,” Evans-Peterson said.
The health district wants to improve that because it can lead to chronic diseases, she said. Clark County has lots of options for outdoor physical activity that could help residents with that, she said, including the bike paths.
She would like for people to get out and use the trails more, which is what they’re trying to do with the bike patrols.
The trails are a safe place, Evans-Peterson said, and no violent crime has been reported. But in a community survey, people said they would use the trails more if there was a police presence.
About $6,000 is being used to run this project through the fall, which will allow a large amount of patrol hours. Officers will be on the Buck Creek Trail, Simon Kenton Trail and the Little Miami Scenic Trail.
“That’s why it’s important the Clark County Combined Health District is able to provide this funding, along with the Springfield Conservancy District, to be able to allow us to do this project,” said Brad Boyer, the deputy director for the National Trail Parks and Recreation District. “It has been done on a minimal basis when we were able to find access to funding.”
Most of what the officers see when patrolling is people drinking or vandalism, Evans-Peterson said.
The officers are a resource, she said.
“Mostly people are lost or looking for directions or they have lost their dog,” Evans-Peterson said.
This program brings the community together through exercise, she said, and creates a bridge between the police officers and the community.
“To get to meet them, to talk to them, they are real people,” she said. “They have families. They love to ride bikes. They love to work out and be outside.”
The officers patrol the trails during their off time when there is heavier ridership on the trails, typically Thursday to Sunday during the summer.
As of last week, 37 hours have been recorded by the officers on the trails and 240 miles have been ridden.
Kenneth Beady has been walking the trails for about four years, starting after he was diagnosed with chronic lung disease.
“Because I have COPD and to build myself up, lose weight and build my heart up,” Beady said.
Beady has met the officers who patrol the trails and said they’re nice, friendly and helpful.
“Off-duty police officers, a lot of them ride these trails on their own time but they are just adding extra duty for this project,” Evans-Peterson said.
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