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USM launches bike patrols on Portland and Gorham campuses

University of Southern Maine Public Safety officers have begun appearing on the Portland and Gorham campuses astride mountain bicycles, part of a new effort aimed at encouraging friendly interaction with students.

From the seat of a bicycle, officers are more visible than on foot and more approachable than in a vehicle, USM President Glenn Cummings said.

“It exemplifies student-centered, student-focused community policing here on campus,” Cummings said. “It allows our officers to get to know our students better, to communicate with the public about safety issues, and to be present here in a whole new way.”

The bicycles — one on each campus — were introduced at the start of the summer. In all, six officers will work on the new bikes, which feature Sharpie-sized headlights, saddle bags and badges beneath the handle bars.

Officers plan to use the bikes as long as the weather allows, said Derek Abbott, an officer with USM Public Safety for seven years,

Already, the bikes are drawing friendly attention from students, faculty and staff, said Penny Belanger, who has spent 17 years in the department.

Everyone should feel welcome to chat with any of the officers, said Noel March, USM’s chief of police.

“They’re approachable, and they’re our guardians,” March said. “USM is a big small town with streets, buildings, neighborhoods, arts, entertainment, sports and a food court. It needs a more specialized level of protection that the community at large. The people who live work and learn at USM deserve the best.”