CARLSBAD — An increase in police officers on bikes along the coastline this summer is thanks to Carlsbad new Bike Patrol Unit (BPU). The Carlsbad Police Department says the unit has been successful connecting officers with both residents and tourists.
Although bike officers are not new to the city, the newly formed unit is unique because the police department reallocated its school resource officers (SROs) to cover the Village and beach areas down to La Costa Avenue.
Stephan (Steven) Tashoff, Julie Martinson and Kam Valentine opted to join the unit, which was the brainchild of Lt. Greg White. They rolled out one week after the school year ended and return to campus one week before school begins, Tashoff and Martinson said.
The police department has five SROs, but only three volunteered for the unit, which peddles Monday through Friday. And since the unit has been such a hit, Tashoff and Martinson said they are optimistic it will return, perhaps with more officers, next summer.
“It was a good use to utilize our resources to do a bike patrol unit,” Martinson said. “It’s a lot of personal relations and getting out there. People see you as more approachable … and come up to you more often.”
The unit has many functions including engaging residents and visitors, monitoring the seawall and beach and backing up patrol units. In addition, it also functions as an extension of the Homeless Outreach Team to a degree, Tashoff and Martinson added.
And with their presence in the Village and along the coast, crime suppression is another benefit, although it is difficult to fully comprehend the metrics and data for crime prevention, Tashoff said. She added that the unit does have an advantage over typical patrol units, as the bike officers are able to get to areas vehicles cannot, thus are a resource in assisting with any foot chases or suspects fleeing through tight spots.
The unit also monitors the rail trail, assists with Concerts in the Park, Flicks at Fountain and Carlsbad Village Faire.
“Mainly what they ask is how come we’re out there and why,” Tashoff said of his public interactions. “It allows us to gain more equity with the public. It’s huge for us here and along the seawall, and I can’t tell you how often I just join a beach game.”
Tashoff, a 17-year veteran on the force with 15-plus years in Carlsbad, said the BPU has also been a good source of public relations as people feel more comfortable approaching BPU officers than regular patrol officers.
Tashoff said it is critical to bridge the gap with the public and establish relationships and trust.
Martinson, who spent seven years as an Army Military Police officer and five-plus years with Carlsbad Police Department, said one of the biggest enforcements the unit carries out is relaying to the public the laws for skateboarding and cycling along the west sidewalk and seawall on Carlsbad Boulevard. It is illegal to ride on the seawall or sidewalk.
They also work on the lagoon in the boat unit and have an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) to do some patrols on the segment of the north beach owned by the city.
“The majority is being a presence in the highly trafficked areas,” Martinson said. “The more they see a police presence the more likely are to be careful and follow the laws.”
Photo Caption: The Carlsbad Bike Patrol Unit from left are Julie Martinson, Kam Valentine and Stephan Tashoff, patrol the Village and coastline during the summer as a new unit to redistribute the department’s school resource officers. Photo courtesy City of Carlsbad