Vehicle Alternative Stands Out From the Crowd

Although traditional police cruisers, motorcycles and bicycles all have their places in campus law enforcement, more and more hospitals and universities are looking at other ways to transport their officers. The Carolinas HealthCare System and University of Maryland are just two institutions that have adopted a different approach that has increased the productivity of their police and security personnel.

According to Warren, his patrol officers quickly learned how to operate the vehicle and were able to complete their patrol routes in approximately half the time they did on foot.

“It was very maneuverable and could be taken into areas that the electrically powered bikes could not go,” says Warren. “The officers also found the Segways operated very quietly, allowing them to come up to a situation quickly and sometimes without alerting people to their presence, which at times they may want. They used it to travel along sidewalks and said that it was very intuitive.

“We also found that the officers were more alert and less fatigued when they had to respond quickly to a situation vs. running to it or pedaling a bike. This increased their ability to handle a potentially physical confrontation once they arrived on the scene. If something does occur and an officer needs back-up, it can take considerable time getting from one area to another on foot. The Segways help tremendously in that respect.”

Apart from its performance as a patrol tool, the vehicle also delivered environmental benefits that Carolinas HealthCare wanted. “The Segway has obvious green appeal, which is important to us,” says Warren. “We had also looked at gasoline-powered vehicles such as golf carts, and there were several issues we encountered such as the noise, pollution and the build-up of CO2 in confined areas. The Segways just seemed to be a lot better solution all the way around. It was also much easier to re-charge than our previous experiments with battery-operated vehicles that required you to physically remove the battery. With the Segways, we could simply plug it into any 110 outlet and charge it at any time.”

Security Challenges a Major Urban University Campus
The University of Maryland Department of Public Safety faced different obstacles in providing a safe and secure environment on its sprawling 2,000-acre urban campus. Its officers must patrol both high-density locations and less populated parks. According to Captain John Brandt, when the Segway popped up on their radar screen, they immediately took a look at it.

“Our chief, Ken Krouse, has always believed we owe it to our community to employ the latest and most effective technology” says Brandt. “We purchased six units early in 2006 and began training our officers. The longer we have these machines, the more we find we can do with them.” Two of the department’s six Segways are assigned to patrol officers in the operations bureau who use them during many of the more than 600 special events the university police patrol each year.

“I’m a bike patrol instructor, so I know that bikes have wonderful uses,” says Brandt. “But one of the drawbacks is that in really heavy pedestrian environments, such as events, the bikes don’t turn that quickly, can impede pedestrians because of their size, and the officer’s head is often too low to get a good view over a standing crowd. With Segways, the officers stand a lot higher, and they can see over the crowds. They can also turn in place. This makes them ideal for large-scale special events with very dense pedestrian crowds.”

The other four Segways are assigned to the student police auxiliary, which is in the department’s support services bureau. This group is run by the police department but employs students called student police aides.

“We use the auxiliary to staff about 20,000 hours of security jobs all over the campus 365 days a year,” says Brandt. “For example, every night our athletic department employs us to make rounds to lock up their facilities, conduct door checks and make sure the field lights aren’t left on. We will use a police aide on a Segway PT for that, and it will require the aide to travel a distance of up to 22 miles in a single four-hour shift. The job will be much easier on a PT.”

The student police aides also provide escort services to anyone who calls in and asks for an escort across the campus or to their residence hall. Brandt says the biggest benefit is that the Segways cut the response time of the escorts. “If it takes the police aide a long time to get to the student or faculty member for the escort, then they won’t use the service and they won’t feel as safe. The Segway PTs have cut our response times by a factor of four in some cases, and we are seeing higher use rates.”

Get Our Newsletters
Campus Safety Online Summit Promo Campus Safety HQ