Bike patrols returning to Downtown Palm Springs with renewed mission

The return of the bike beat is one of several efforts underway to deal with a spike in crime related to a rise in the city’s homeless population.
Palm Springs Police Department Sgt. Frank Guarino has the department’s bicycles all ready to ride for a pair of officers. Here, he takes one for a spin downtown.

Palm Springs police hope to prove once again that sometimes two wheels are better than four.

The news: After a yearlong absence, bicycle patrols are starting again in a core part of Downtown Palm Springs. Beginning Monday afternoon, you can expect to see officers on the “bike beat” in the area between the Agua Caliente Casino and the hillside and between Alejo and Baristo roads.

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  • The bikes had been in storage since last fall due to staffing shortages, explained Sgt. Frank Guarino, who prepped them for duty along with the officers who will ride them.

Why it matters: Guarino explained Tuesday that there are multiple advantages to having police on bikes: They are easier to maneuver through crowded streets, more “stealth” than patrol cars, and faster than engaging in a foot chase.

Perhaps the most significant advantage, however, is that of perception. During community forums initiated by Police Chief Andy Mills in February, residents urged police to be more visible in the community. Patrolling on bikes instead of cars helps fulfill that request.

  • “If you’re in a police car, people aren’t going to come up and engage with you,” said Guarino. “On bikes, you are much more approachable.”

Up next: Guarino said there will initially be two officers deployed on bikes – one from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. to help combat issues in retail stores, and one between 4:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. to deal with problems caused by bar patrons. He hopes to see a full contingent of four officers on bikes as soon as possible.

  • “They aren’t just riding a bike,” Guarino said. “They are going to be able to be in constant contact with business owners and with the homeless population.”
Palm Springs Police Department Sgt. Frank Guarino with one of the department’s bicycles outside Starbucks Reserve.

Bigger picture: The return of the bike beat is just one of several efforts Guarino and other leaders at PSPD are making to deal with a spike in crime related to a rise in the city’s homeless population.

  • In recent months police have been focusing not only on making arrests, but on examining environmental factors that make some areas of the city more attractive to criminals who live on the streets. 
  • “We’re actively problem-solving,” Guarino explained. “Giving tickets is not going to solve this problem.”

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