Bloomfield TownshipJuly 23, 2013
Bike Patrol unit stays the course in the heat
By Robin Ruehlen
C & G Staff Writer
BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — When triple-digit heat indices keep most people huddled inside the comfort of air-conditioned homes, Bloomfield Township officer Pete Matejcik still climbs on his Trek and hits the township roads on bicycle patrol — just like any other day.
“We do wear dark uniforms and our vests, and that holds an awful lot of heat in. But as long as you stay (hydrated) and drink a lot of water and Gatorade, it’s not so bad,” he said, despite last Thursday’s extreme heat.
“I just pedal faster. It helps keep the wind going over me.”
Although according to the township, police bicycle patrols had their start in the 1970s under the Community Youth Relations Division, the unit was made official in May 2001. Matejcik belongs to a group of eight officers with the Bloomfield Township Police Department’s Bike Patrol Unit who spend their days cruising the neighborhoods and shopping centers, keeping watch over homes and cars and getting to know residents on a more personal basis without the barrier of the patrol car — which, as the department’s community relations officer, Matejcik considers to be priceless.
“That’s one of the things I really love about bike patrol — we are so much more approachable than when we are in cars,” he said.
“People will start talking to me about my bike, or about the weather, and before you know it, they’re opening up to you and mentioning things that are happening in the neighborhood, or things they’d like us to keep an eye on. When I’m finished with what I have to do, I want to get out of the station and get onto the streets. I want to see what I can see.”
To give residents a greater awareness of where their officers patrol and exactly what roads are within the township’s jurisdiction, Matjecik recently came up with the idea to track his daily bike routes on Google Maps and post them to the department’s Facebook page. Any residents living along his route that day can message him at the department to win a prize.
“About four months ago, we put out a video of how to tell if you live in Bloomfield Township or West Bloomfield or Bloomfield Hills, and I thought this would go hand in hand,” he said.
“People can look at my route and see their own road in relation to everything else.”
In the past week, his routes have taken him up and down both sides of Telegraph Road, through subdivisions from Wing Lake Road to Lone Pine, on Quarton Road up to Peabody and Timberlake, on 14 Mile Road past Oakland Hills, and through the Village Knoll shopping center and the subdivisions just south of it. Matejcik said he tries to ride about 12 miles per day, but in recent days, that number has climbed to 24 and sometimes even 30 miles in one shift.
“The township is 94 percent residential, so I try to spend most of my time in the subdivisions, watching the homes, seeing what’s going on there,” he said.
So far, the contest has garnered more interest in the department’s Facebook page — which also contains weekly crime reports, safety tips and traffic updates — than anything else, he said.
“I’ve had a lot of people messaging me and saying I just missed them by one road, but there’s still a lot of summer left, and I’ll be hitting more and more areas.
“The fact that I’ve gotten more response out of this contest than anything else gives me incentive to get out and push the miles, and get as many subdivisions under my belt as possible,” Matejcik said.
The Bike Patrol Unit operates from spring through early fall — “as long as there isn’t frost or snow on the ground, we’ll be riding as late as we can into the year,” he said.
Township Supervisor Leo Savoie said he always receives positive comments about the Bike Patrol and how much it means to residents to speak with officers in person about their neighborhood concerns.
“All those guys are in great shape, but when it gets to be 100 degrees, I hope they’re finding a way to stay near some air conditioning,” he quipped.
In addition to plenty of water, Matejcik never rides without his department cellphone and his personal cellphone, a flashlight and a laminated map of the township.
“We have almost 1,000 roads, and while I think I know most of them, sometimes I’ll get a ring from dispatch and I need a refresher,” he said.
If he is within four miles of a call, he can respond, and often beats cars coming from the opposite side of the township. He said the biggest advantage of riding a bicycle to calls, rather than a patrol car, is stealth.
Several years ago, a Bloomfield Township officer on night patrol received a call regarding suspects breaking into cars in a subdivision. He happened to have his bicycle mounted on the back of the car and decided to take a ride through the neighborhood to see what he could find. Within half an hour, Matejcik said, the officer had arrested six kids involved in the break-ins.
“On the bike, they almost never see you coming and they sure don’t hear you,” he said.
“We can see and hear and smell things that you otherwise wouldn’t in the car, just from the noise of the engine or the air or the radio.”
And speaking of crime — if he were given a magic wand to change one thing in Bloomfield Township, it would be the number of garage doors that he sees left open while on patrol every day.
“There was one house I passed three times in one week, and each time I passed, the garage door was up and there were no cars, but there was a beautiful set of Ping golf clubs and a brand new generator. I could see all of this from the road,” he said.
Not to mention the number of iPads, cellphones and purses that he sees left lying in plain view in parked (and sometimes unlocked) cars. In either case, it takes a thief mere seconds to break a window or reach inside the car and take it.
“I just don’t want to see people victimized,” Matejcik said.
“We live in an awesome community — we really do — and if I could make all crime go away, I would. But until then, I just do what I can.”
For more information on the BTPD or to participate in officer Matejcik’s Google Maps contest, visit the Bloomfield Township Police Department on Facebook.