CULVER CITY — More and more Culver City Unified School District security officers have begun appearing on and around local campuses astride mountain bicycles, part of an effort aimed at encouraging friendly interaction with students, parents and community members.
From the seat of a bicycle, officers are more visible than on foot and more approachable than in a vehicle, said the district’s Director of Safety and Security Ted Ronchetti.
“We implemented the program a few years back, but this year, we’re fully staffed,” said Ronchetti, who added that there are currently 12 officers trained on bikes. “It allows our officers to get to know our students better and to communicate with the public about safety issues. The feedback has been amazing.”
Parents wave to officers from across the street. Cranky drivers change their disposition immediately when a bicycle officer reminds them about traffic rules around the schools. And students are happy to chat up officers as they straddle their bikes.
The district’s fleet of five bicycles is specially designed for public safety patrols, and each bike costs about $1,200, including special equipment and saddlebags.
Officers work in teams of two, patrolling all district sites throughout the day, but focusing primarily on the busy Elenda school complex, which includes Culver City High School, Culver City Middle School, Farragut Elementary School and the Office of Child Development each morning.
In addition, Ronchetti said officers spend time patrolling the Ballona Creek Bike Path, alleys, parks, streets, campuses and the perimeter of school sites where they are constantly making sure the routes students take to and from school are safe. He said just the officers’ presence has made a difference.
The novelty of an officer on a bike is often enough to start overcoming the negative perceptions that some have about school security. Bicycles give an opportunity for a new impression, often making those who come in contact with bike officers more cooperative and willing to listen.
One of the biggest advantages to bicycle patrol is its ability to navigate swiftly around campus, avoiding obstacles and hazards that would stop a patrol vehicle in its tracks.
Superintendent Leslie Lockhart said the program has been an enormous success.
“Our bicycle patrol officers are approachable, helpful and effective,” she said. “While we have an outstanding relationship with the Culver City Police Department and our security team works hand-in-hand with Police Department officers, our school campuses need a more specialized level of protection that our bike patrol provides.”
Wave Staff Report