Wednesday, July 18 , 2018, 7:54 pm | Fair 68º


Local News

Santa Barbara Police Test-Driving Segways as New Way to Patrol

Seven-week pilot program will help officers gauge the effectiveness of the two-wheeled electric vehicles

The Santa Barbara Police Department is trying out Segways as part of a seven-week pilot program, and some beat coordinators and patrol officers will be rolling around town in the mornings and afternoons.

The department already has patrol officers on foot, bicycles and motorcycles and in cars, but Sgt. Riley Harwood said officials want to consider adding another mode of transportation to the mix.

Over the years, he said, the department has considered using Segways and received support from the Downtown Organization, and there are other agencies that already use them.

Segway has clearly recognized the market. It even has a special model targeted at police departments, though SBPD is testing different models.

According to Segway’s website, the Segway Patroller “has been called ‘the greatest community policing tool ever’ by being the ultimate icebreaker for positive interactions and intelligence-led policing” to help agencies “reengage with the public.”

The i2 Personal Transporter and X2 Adventure models that are being tested are on loan from Segway of Santa Barbara. Officers check them out from the store at 16 Helena Ave. for a few hours at a time to see how they work as patrol vehicles throughout downtown, along the waterfront and on Milpas Street.

“We recognize that there are a number of other places that use Segways, however, we would like to see really what the utility is in regard to our needs in Santa Barbara,” Harwood said. “I think on its face, it may be appealing because it can fill a niche between foot patrol and bicycle patrol.”

Officers on foot get great contact with members of the public, he said, but can’t cover very much ground or respond to calls for service very well, while bicycles are quick enough and agile enough to get around congested areas and catch up to bicyclists or skateboarders.

Segways can be used on sidewalks and anywhere else pedestrians are allowed. The models being tested — a typical one, and one with bigger tires that can go on more off-road surfaces — have a top speed of 12.5 miles per hour and a range of about 20 miles, according to Segway of Santa Barbara.

“Every mode of patrolling has its advantages and disadvantages … there are definitely some advantages to the Segways — they’re easier and faster than walking — but they can’t stop or maneuver as quickly or as adeptly as our officers who ride bikes, so that’s a little bit of a disadvantage,” Harwood said.

Harwood said an officer took the larger X2 model, with a $6,820 price tag, out on Tuesday and wrote a few tickets while getting positive feedback — and jokes — from tourists and locals.

“He even ticketed a skateboarder downtown who exclaimed he couldn’t believe he was getting a ticket from a Segway cop,” Harwood said.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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