They have changed the police cars for bicycles and thus got closer to the community they serve, watching upon public order right from the front line. This is the experience of five police officers from Ungheni, including one woman, who have been patrolling the city streets for several weeks on two wheels. They are daily on duty in squares, parks, and other crowded places, but also in spaces where access by car is rather difficult.
The benefits of this patrolling formula are obvious — fully ecological means of transport, no costs for fuel, and people from the locality are much more pleased with the police performance. Bike patrols were created in 2021 in other three towns as well — Orhei, Anenii Noi and Edineț. This initiative is part of a project implemented by UNDP with the support of the U.S. Government.
They make dozens of kilometers daily by bike to know the community “like the back of their hand”
An ordinary working day for Mihai Noroc, Senior Sub-officer in Patrolling Service of the Ungheni Police Inspectorate, means cycling dozens of kilometers through the city and direct interactions with tens of people. His bike patrolling team is well-known to the majority of inhabitants, who already got used to see law-enforcement officers in Ungheni downtown, in Tineretii and Danuteni districts, on the Nationala Street, in the central park of the city, but also in many other places with a big flow of pedestrians.
“People react very positively when they see us on bikes. They understand that we are there for their protection. When patrolling by car, we cannot see all the details. When we do bike patrolling, we have the possibility to monitor everything happening on the streets, in the parks, observe people’s behavior and we can intervene faster, if needed”, says Mihai Noroc.
The young man joined the police service in 2019 and last summer he has accepted the challenge to patrol on bike.
“My family has fully supported me. They told me that bike patrolling will involve sports as well, and thus will help me practice a healthy lifestyle. But the most important thing is that I am closer to people, closer to their problems”, states the police officer.
Means of transport and defense “shield”
When used in patrolling, the bike is not only a mere means of transport, but also a real “shield”, which can be used by police officers for defense. Equipped with police distinctive signs and lights, the bike also has a medical kit to provide first aid. According to the internal procedures, the police patrol is composed of at least two persons, for a more efficient and safe reaction to situations that might occur in public spaces.
To obtain the currently held skills, Mihai has joined a group of 20 police officers from four regions of the country to attend in August 2020 a series of training courses provided by an American trainer, based on an international program. They learned bike maneuvering, defense and crowd control tactics, how to safely ride a bike and brake suddenly, bypass obstacles and pass through a crowd — a bunch of skills intended to assist them in tackling situations they are facing day by day.
Mihai’s colleague, Oxana Malcoci, Senior Sub-officer in Patrolling Service of Ungheni Police Inspectorate, says that she is honored to be part of the police bike patrols.
“It seemed rather complicated at the very beginning — I have not ridden a bike since I was 15 years old. Now I understand that we have a beautiful and very useful mission. We can intervene rapidly, just upon the very first need. It is also very nice that we use a means of transport which does not pollute the environment. We can reach all the streets of the city by bike, we have better access and it is much faster”, says the young woman.
Oleg Baroncea, Head of Patrolling Service of Ungheni Police Inspectorate, mentioned that he got convinced of the benefits of new patrolling formula rather quickly.
“It is a very efficient practice — the police staff are on the streets and not in the car, they are not isolated from people. If citizens have questions, they come up and discuss. If a contravention is identified, they document it on the spot. In case of an offence, police staff may intervene and identify the offender on the spot. It is easier to drive by bike between districts and much more efficient than by using a car. We also need cars, but we cannot give up bikes anymore”, states the police officer.
70 policemen and policewomen are doing bike patrols in several districts across the country
As of today, bike patrols exist in several districts across the country — Orhei, Anenii Noi, Edineț, Ungheni, Cahul, Leova, Cantemir, but also in Chisinau and Balti municipalities. 70 police officers are delivering this service in their communities.
Timothy Buckley, Director of Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Section (INL), U.S. Embassy in the Republic of Moldova, says that extension of bike patrolling is part of the community police concept implementation.
“This began as an independent initiative from INL four years ago in Chisinau. It was very successful, it brought police closer to the people. Gradually, with the support of UNDP, our implementing partner, we succeeded to expand this program to other regions of the Republic of Moldova. This Spring, police bike patrol officers started their mission in other four cities of the country, hence marking a successful continuation and increasing our support for community police development. The bicycle patrols are environmentally friendly; the officers enjoy health benefits for patrolling on the streets on the bicycles; they are cost-effective with a minimal impact on the state budget and are easier and cheaper to maintain”.
Ianuș Erhan, Secretary General of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, mentions that this service could be extended to other localities as well.
“People highly appreciate that police bike patrols are closer to the community, to the problems of the citizens and may interact easier with them, are nearby in different situations which may emerge in public spaces, where our colleagues patrolling in police cars have no access. We would like for this concept to be expanded to the entire territory of the Republic of Moldova, as it proved to be efficient, especially in terms of community police concept, which achieved goods results and should be further developed”.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Police of the Republic of Moldova have a long-lasting collaboration with the U.S. Government and UNDP, during which a number of activities were carried out to strengthen institutional and professional capacities of police so as to ensure a safe environment for all men and women in the Republic of Moldova and increase people’s trust in police.
The “Support to Law Enforcement Reform in Moldova” Project is implemented by UNDP with the financial support provided by the U.S. Government.