Bylaw officers on bikes are here to stay in parks and at big public events in Burnaby.
City council voted unanimously this week to make the municipal bike patrol permanent now that a one-year pilot project has wrapped up.
Four trained bylaw officers took to their bikes on May 19, 2018 in a pilot project designed to gauge the patrol’s potential effectiveness in enhancing public safety and security in parks and other public places by deterring nuisance and illegal activity.
After training in personal safety, bicycle-handling and bylaw enforcement, they were issued high-visibility uniforms and deployed in pairs, operating seven days a week, including holidays.
According to a report to council on the project, the five most common infractions the patrol encountered from June 1, 2018 to Sept. 30, 2018 were off-leash dogs (686), parking (449), drug and alcohol use (222), camping in parks (127) and people making fires (51).
The patrol has spent much of its time educating the public on bylaws and getting voluntary compliance without issuing tickets.
“Immediately upon the launch of the program, feedback received from the general public has been overwhelmingly positive,” stated the staff report.
The municipal bike patrol was one of several measures to enhance park safety announced by the city after 13-year-old Marrisa Shen’s body was found in Central Park in July 2017.
Coun. Dan Johnston, chair of the public safety committee, noted Monday that the municipal bike squad is “distinct from the RCMP bike patrol” but that they have similar objectives.
“They’re able to make people feel a little safer and address some of the issues in the past,” he said.
The public safety committee’s former chair, Coun. Pietro Calendino, welcomed the idea of a permanent municipal bike patrol.
“The good thing about the parks bike patrol is that they’re not restricted to the parks alone; they will also participate in various community events to assist the RCMP,” he said. “I’m also pleased to see that we also now have re-established the RCMP bike patrol. The two, I think, will work together in ensuring that we keep Burnaby a safe community and that we ensure that people feel safe in our community.”
Chief Supt. Deanne Burleigh had disbanded the RCMP bike patrol because of a shortage of police resources.
The city hadn’t funded an increase in the local detachment’s numbers for 10 years – a decade that coincided with Calendino’s tenure as chair of the public safety committee (previously called the community policing committee).
Three months before the last municipal election, though, Mayor Derek Corrigan and his Burnaby Citizens Association council unanimously approved a plan to hire eight extra officers in 2018 and six more in 2019, allowing for the bike patrol to be reinstated.