N.C. Department of Correction--Correction News--November 1998

Probation Officer patrols town by bike

HENDERSONVILLE — When Hendersonville Probation Officer David Oates first took up mountain biking six years ago, he did so because it was fun. He had no idea that bike riding would become an essential part of his job.

As one of the only probation officers riding bike patrol in the state, Oates has managed to effectively combine his love of biking with his job duties to take the Division of Community Corrections’ community policing initiative to a new level.

"I really wanted to get involved in community policing, because I believe in it," he said. "This is a way to do that – a way that’s been highly effective."

Dressed in black bike shorts and a black shirt, complete with a badge and the words "Probation Officer" emblazoned on the back, Oates is hard to miss as he rides his bicycle along city streets, through neighborhoods and around parks with Hendersonville Police Officer Jim Schandevel.

Oates teamed up with Schandevel this past spring, leaving behind his office and the comforts of his car in favor of policing by bike. By riding bike patrol, the two officers have made themselves more visible and accessible to members of the community, resulting in an increased sense of safety.

"The response from the community to see a uniformed probation officer out on bike patrol with a police officer has been great. We tend to draw a crowd wherever we go," Oates said. "They are glad to see a probation officer out in the community. Before, when we were just riding around in our cars, they didn’t know it was us, they didn’t realize that probation officers were out there."

Over the past year, the DCC has been working to implement the new community policing initiative in cities across the state by forming partnerships with local police departments. By working side-by-side, probation and police officers build a spirit of cooperation, helping to make communities safer.

Oates said riding bike patrol is just one more way that probation and police officers can work together.

"I think a lot more areas can use this," he said. "When we first started out, I thought it would be a lot of fun – I had no idea that it would be this effective."

Oates said on a typical four-hour ride through town, he can make 10 to 15 home visits, not to mention the contacts he makes just by running into people on the street. In fact, he said he can make home visits by bike much quicker than he could by car, because now he can ride right up to people’s front doors without having to park his car and lock it up. Sometimes he doesn’t even have to get off his bike.

In addition to the convenience of making home visits, Oates said traveling by bike has other advantages such as allowing the officers an up-close view of the community.

"When you are on your bike, you can cruise through parks and other areas where some of your probationers may be up to no good," he said. "When you are in your car, you may ride by the park and never even see them."

By working together, Judicial District Manager Randy Eggen said Oates and Schandevel have been able to build a true partnership between the probation and police officers.

"Probation Officer David Oates and Hendersonville Police Officer Jim Schandevel have provided a team approach for increasing public safety and public awareness of community corrections in North Carolina," he said. "Effective officers are both visible and approachable in their communities. The community policing bicycle program helps us meet both needs."

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