Oakmont police roll out new bike patrol
Oakmont police have a new way to patrol the less than 2-square-mile town — peddling on two wheels.
The borough recently rolled out a bike patrol initiative geared toward increasing community relations and police presence in the business district, parks and other areas.
Officer Jim Yurek, 41, began the new patrol in July. He rides two to three days a week and logs between eight to 15 miles per four-hour shift.
“You have to have an officer that doesn’t mind injecting himself into the community and talking to people, and showing them the softer side of law enforcement,” he said.
Yurek is certified by the International Police Mountain Biking Association. He said you have to know the basics of riding a bike before classes.
“They do give you techniques like teaching how to ride down steps,” Yurek said. “Steps are very intimidating. These steps by the railroad tracks (in the borough), I can ride down every flight (and) jump curbs.
“If I’m on the avenue and there’s an emergency call at the bank, I can shoot down the steps and be at the bank in seconds versus in a car trying to get through traffic. There are a lot of advantages of having a bike patrol.”
Oakmont purchased two bicycles and police equipment through the sale of a 2007 Harley-Davidson police motorcycle. Officer Zak Fedunok recently completed his certification to be on the other bike.
Police Chief Michael Ford said the department has received all positive feedback from the borough, but it’s too early to judge its impact via citations or arrests.
“The two officers are very community-oriented officers that enjoy engaging with the public,” Ford said.”Especially with Jim — his extensive experience has been a bonus along with his desire to engage the public. It’s been nothing but positive.”
Ford, a former motorcycle officer, knows what it’s like to get around on a bike. He said he might join in on a bike patrol at at some point.
The bicycles cost approximately $1,800 each and were bought from Pro Bike+Run in Monroeville.
“The quality of the bikes is definitely higher,” Yurek explained. “You have to have something a little more reliable…You get to do things you normally wouldn’t do.”
Teresa Stitt, owner of Embroidery From the Heart along Allegheny River Boulevard in Oakmont, helped customize some items for the bike patrol.
“I think some people have a false sense of security that we’re a little town and nothing goes on here,” said Stitt. “A lot of things do go on. It’s nice to feel their presence, and I think community policing is very important.”
Yurek said he’s in talks with Riverview School District officials about possibly having a bike safety class for students this school year.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.