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Cops take to neighborhoods on ATVs

Capt. Bryan Lavoie of the Albany Police Department stands with ATV riders Jermaine Lewis, left, and Terry Brown in the Rawson Circle neighborhood. The area is one of several central Albany sections which have experienced upswings in crime, officials say. APD officials hope that the smaller vehicles will encourage residents to get to know the officers and to share information on suspicious people or activities. (Staff photo: Jim West)

Capt. Bryan Lavoie of the Albany Police Department stands with ATV riders Jermaine Lewis, left, and Terry Brown in the Rawson Circle neighborhood. The area is one of several central Albany sections which have experienced upswings in crime, officials say. APD officials hope that the smaller vehicles will encourage residents to get to know the officers and to share information on suspicious people or activities. (Staff photo: Jim West)

ALBANY — To help counter what police officials say is a spike in both violent and property crime in the central district, some officers have been certified to ride all-terrain vehicles in problem neighborhoods. According to Bryan Lavoie, central district captain with the Albany Police Department, the small but ATV rugged units are a hit with Albany residents, instilling confidence and willingness to communicate with officers.

“We want to become partners with the community,” Lavoie said. It’s just a great way to have mutual contact. The idea is for them to come out and meet us and we’ll talk about what’s going on in the neighborhood.”

Lovoie said there are currently two to four ATVs available for duty, “depending on the location.” The vehicles are loud, Lavoie said, but often cruise at just 5-10 mph and are able to go where full-sized patrol units can’t. They may be the most intimate of patrol systems since the city eliminated horses from the mix in April.

“We don’t want the residents to be alarmed by an increased presence of patrol vehicles,” said Phyllis Banks, spokeswoman for the APD, “but we do want them to be alert to suspicious vehicles or activities. We hope they’ll come to know these officers one-on-one and be ready to share that type of information.”

Lavoie said that even though the ATVs are loud, sometimes it’s easier for the rider to catch the criminals simply because they aren’t expecting officers to ride ATVs.

“When you ride these vehicles through the alleyways, sometimes the criminals aren’t listening. They’re focused on breaking in a door or watching for the resident of the house. These folks can drive up on somebody and catch them,” Lavoie said.

Cpls. Terry Brown and Jermaine Lewis, certified ATV riders with the APD, are currently covering the Rawson Circle neighborhood in central Albany.

“Everybody we’ve come in contact with are really excited about it,” Brown said.

Lewis agreed. “They tell us what they see, the traffic, the people they don’t normally see in the neighborhood,” he said. “Plus, we become more familiar with the alleyways the bad guys take to get away from us. We just see things in a whole different way.”