WATERVILLE — The public can expect to see police officers on bicycles around downtown and in the city’s South End this summer as the police department’s summer bike patrol kicked into gear Monday.

Police say the summer patrol is good for community outreach as well as a better way for police to keep an eye on things.

“It’s going to be a good addition to the patrol for the summer,” police Chief Joseph Massey said Monday. “It’s been a good tool for us. It’s been good for the officers and for the community.”

The bike patrol has been in existence some 15 years, but it has been more active at times when staffing allowed. This summer, with five officers able to alternate patrols, it will be in full swing. Officers Damon Lefferts, Kyle McDonald, Cameron Huggins, Robert Bouley and Ryan Dinsmore have trained for the bike patrol, which will continue through August.

“We find it gets the officers out there, rather than just inside a cruiser,” Massey said. “It makes them more accessible to the public, and they’re able to go into places and areas cruisers can’t — in alley ways, behind buildings, on trails — those types of places.

“We’ve been able to do details such as surveillance and downtown patrols, which is one of the big reasons the bike patrol was created, to provide a visible presence downtown at night.”

Lefferts, who also is school resource officer and the police department’s new South End police officer, pedaled downtown and on The Concourse Monday, stopping to talk to both adults and children. He said being on a bike allows him to be out there talking with the public in a way that he thinks is less intimidating for some.

“It’s so nice to be in that more intimate setting with the community rather than taking calls from the car,” he said.

Lefferts, 33, stopped into downtown businesses to let them know the bike patrol is out. He also talked to some youths he knows from the schools.

“The contacts I make in the schools with kids really help me a lot on the street,” he said. “They come up to me on the street and recognize me and want to ride with me.”

Lefferts and the other officers who ride the bike patrol can get onto the trails around the city, including those along the river at Head of Falls off Front Street.

“I’m more mobile. I get around the city faster on the bike than in the car,” Lefferts said, adding that a bike is quieter, and criminals aren’t expecting to see an officer on a bike.

Being the new South End officer, Lefferts has met with South End Neighborhood Association members and those involved in the crime watch there, serving as liaison between police and the organization. He also will visit the South End Teen Center, where he knows students from school.

Sgt. Dan Goss trained the bike patrol officers last week when they practiced driving around cones, doing 90-degree turns, serpentine maneuvers and 9-foot radius circle, carrying bikes up and down stairs and doing mechanical work including changing tires.

The bike patrol takes officers through greater downtown.

“My main focus is definitely downtown, The Concourse, Head of Falls, and I work my way south to the South End,” Lefferts said. “I want to have special attention for that area. That’s where most people congregate and where the most problems are.”

Lefferts emphasized that he and the other officers are out there to assist people with any problems they might have or to talk about concerns, among other things.

“I’m not doing this to enforce rules and laws all the time. I’m there as a friend and a community member,” he said.

He said he hopes people will approach him and the other bike patrol officers if they have a concern or to ask for help. A father, Lefferts is a 2000 graduate of Winslow High School, has a degree in criminal justice from Thomas College, where he also minored in psychology, and formerly worked for Winslow and Augusta police departments. He has been with Waterville police three years.

It is an honor, he said, to work in schools and the city’s South End — and to serve the city in general. Having five bike patrol officers closer to the people will help to strengthen the department, the community and the relationship between the two, he said.

“I love what I do, and I love the people that I look after,” he said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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