Canton Police Department's bike patrols keep shoppers safe

CANTON, Mich. – On busy holiday shopping days, Canton Police Department officers can be seen on bicycles circulating parking lots, keeping an eye out for problems.

"We're trying to make sure everyone sees us and keeping a presence out in the parking lot so people feel safe," said Officer Michael Kirby. "Try to relate to everyone, talk to everyone if we can."

Kirby, a Canton police officer for the past 15 years, enjoys spending his shift on a bike.  He said it lets him be more mobile and gives him a different perspective than being in a patrol car. 

"You hear things like car alarms. You hear if glass breaks or a window breaks, people yelling or raising their voices, and you're going to go to that. You're going to see what's going on," Kirby said. "You're looking for anything that looks out of the ordinary, just like anyone would. Even if you're the average citizen shopper, you're going to keep your eyes open, look around, see what looks out of the ordinary."

The department has had officers patrolling on bicycles along busy shopping centers on Ford Road and Michigan Avenue for the past five years during the busy holiday shopping season.

"Nobody is usually expecting an officer to pull up on a bicycle, but it's very helpful," said Patty Esselink, community relations officer for the Canton Police Department. 

Moving around on a bike can make it easier for officers to navigate a busy parking lot.

"Maneuvering through, cutting through parking spaces versus going all the way down with the packed parking lot -- it allows us to intervene in situations if we have to quicker,” Esselink said.

Shoppers who spoke with Local 4 said they liked having officers on bikes in the parking lots.

"It gives me a sense of peace. I'm disabled and it takes me a long time to get from one place to another and that's just a sense of security, just a peace, knowing that someone is there if, God forbid, I need some help," said Beth Lennon of Ann Arbor.

"Extra safety. You have cameras, but bikes are extra safety," said Cynthia Obanner of Belleville.
"I think that's great. If there was some type of situation, that seems like that would be an easier way to get around," said Uzair Irfan, of Plymouth.

Esselink described the different situations officers have encountered. 

"A lot of times, handicap parking situations. Sometimes we get shoppers who are slightly stressed out and maybe arguments will ensue or retail fraud will occur, we've had officers pull up on situations like that," Esselink said.

Kirby said the officers are there to help in any way they can, even assisting shoppers with finding their cars if that's the case.

Esselink also wants to remind shoppers not to leave their packages in plain sight in their cars and to put them in a trunk. She advises to only carry the credit cards or cash you need for the trip and never flash or flaunt your cards or cash. If you are shopping at night, always park in well-lit areas.  No matter when you are shopping, always pay attention to your surroundings. If you feel uncomfortable, have a store clerk walk you to your car.

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