WATERVILLE — Cops on bikes are less threatening than cops in cruisers.

They can get into places such as alleys and parks that cruisers can’t, and bike patrol officers can smell a potential fire, see someone breaking into a building, hear a fight going on and touch things while on a bicycle that they can’t while in a car.

Beyond that, bikes are economical and low-maintenance.

“When you’re on a bike, you get to use all your senses to take in your environment, so that’s a great advantage in itself,” police Chief Joseph Massey said Tuesday. “It really gives that officer those advantages you don’t get in a car.”

The Waterville police bike patrol, in existence 16 years, has been successful, according to Massey.

Several officers are trained for the bike patrol and cruise through the streets of the city every week, not only helping to maintain public safety, but also establishing a relationship with the community, Massey said. Bike patrol officers develop relationships with children and help promote bike safety, he said.

“There’s no question the public seems to enjoy seeing bike officers out there,” Massey said. “They’re approachable, and that’s what we want to do.”

He said that in May, a sergeant makes up a bike patrol schedule for the warm months and officers go out on a weekly basis. They do not go out every day, but do so depending on staffing, weather and other factors, according to Massey.

“In summertime, we put them out as much as we can,” he said.

Having bike patrols allows police to concentrate on issues such as car burglaries, loitering, suspicious drug activity and the like, he said. Officers ticket people who park illegally, for instance, and if they see someone violating motor vehicle laws, they pull them over.

The bike patrol started 16 years ago when officer Dan Goss, who now is a Waterville police sergeant, wrote a proposal and presented it to then-Chief John Morris, who now is commissioner of the state Department of Public Safety.

“The chief was very much in support of the bike patrol,” said Massey, who at the time was deputy chief. “It has been a great tool and a resource for us over the years. Bikes are certainly less threatening than patrol vehicles. My own experience is, I think the amount of contacts with the average citizen is doubled or tripled.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

acalder@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @AmyCalder17