Islip Town has rolled out a new bicycle patrol unit that officials say will help the town's park and harbor patrols to monitor areas not easily accessible by vehicles.
The unit, which launched shortly before Memorial Day, deploys peace officers to patrol town parks and harbors, and town-controlled areas of Fire Island, with bikes. The officers, whose authority is limited to only their jurisdiction, completed training led by the New York Police Department, which has a bike patrol unit.
Islip Public Safety Commissioner Tony Prudenti told Newsday the four-bike unit boosts safety for Islip residents and increases the visibility of officers, who he said can make inroads with the community.
Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter said the program has the potential to strengthen the relationship between the community and officers. Carpenter, a former Suffolk County legislator, said the county launched a successful bike program for police officers while she was in the legislature.
"This whole idea of community-oriented policing is more important now than it ever was," she told Newsday. "The idea of community policing and trying to really have a presence in the neighborhood and our parks, and engage with the public on a more personal, positive level, is the upside benefit to this."
Prudenti said the town was inspired to organize the program after Hempstead Village launched its bike patrol unit in April 2021. The village touted its anti-crime and bike patrol unit for leading a $35,000 drug bust in September. Mayor Waylyn Hobbs Jr. told Newsday that bike patrol officers have removed guns and drugs from the village's downtown area. Additionally, officers on their bikes — instead of in their patrol cars — are more in tune with what's happening in their communities, Hobbs said.
Prudenti said officers can more efficiently patrol their areas on bikes than on foot. On Fire Island, where many communities are not accessible by vehicle, harbor patrol officers ferried from dock to dock to patrol communities. Now, they can ride up and down the boardwalk, he said.
The bike patrol program cost about $5,000 for two bikes, Prudenti said. Two bikes were donated. The bikes, similar to mountain bikes, are outfitted with sirens and lights but lack cameras.
Two bikes will be assigned to the park ranger’s unit and two to harbor patrol. Nine peace officers have passed their bike patrol training and more plan to attend future classes, Prudenti said.