Prepare to see three-wheeling police officers on the streets of Santa Barbara.
After some test runs, the Santa Barbara Police Department has decided to buy electric-powered Trikkes instead of Segways for beat coordinators and officers patrolling the downtown and waterfront corridors.
“We concluded the pilot phase of testing them, and know that we like them, so we’re going to look into acquiring some of them,” said Sgt. Riley Harwood, a department spokesman.
Harwood said the department doesn’t know how many it will buy or where the funding will come from, although the Santa Barbara Police Foundation reportedly has pledged some money to the effort.
Electric-powered Trikke Tech Inc. models reach up to 16 mph and range up to 24 miles per battery charge, according to the Buellton-based company’s website. The electric models cost between $1,300 to $2,300 each.
The Trikkes are lighter, more affordable, and easier to stop and dismount than the Segways, Harwood said.
There are some disadvantages, however. They’re so light that police worry about keeping them locked down since they can be folded up and carried away.
“In general, I think there are a lot of things that they’re useful for, but the downside is the same as bikes: having to leave it behind if you jump off of it,” said Sgt. Eric Beecher, who was trained on the Trikkes.
“If you don’t take the key out of it and shut if off, somebody could easily take off with it. It’s not something you’ll want to leave behind very often, so that’ll have to be worked out.”
Officers on Trikkes can ride on sidewalks, and will be added to the fleet of officers on foot, bicycles, motorcycles and cars.
Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies in Solvang’s police department already use the Trikkes for patrol officers, according to the Trikke website.
“With Trikkes and also with Segways, the idea is to still be on the sidewalk with pedestrians and be able to respond to calls or perhaps follow perpetrators to much better degree than on foot, but have better contact than officers on the bicycles,” Harwood said.
“Three of my four officers are trained and have ridden them, and other officers have trained as well. Wojo (Officer Kent Wojciechoski), my tall one, he won’t do it; he said it’s too far to fall,” he laughed.
“You know (teasing) is going to happen, but people will get used to seeing us on them,” Harwood said. “And we do get a lot of positive feedback.”
Beecher said the Trikkes give officers more mobility and visibility — by being a few inches taller than everyone else — than being on foot or bicycles.
Getting the hang of the scooters is relatively simple, he added.
“It’ll probably take a few hours of training on it to really feel comfortable to start riding it on sidewalks and in the streets,” he said. “Once you get it down, it’s pretty easy.”