University police officers are now patrolling their beats utilizing the latest in personal transportation technology. The UAA Police Department has procured several Segways as part of a testing program to see if they measure up with the likes of patrol cars and bicycles. Alaska Segway offered to let UPD test the Segways on campus for a few weeks.
“We have not purchased anything as of yet,” said UPD Police Chief Dale Pittman. “After the testing period, I will listen to feedback from users before the decision to purchase is made.”
Pittman said if the department decides to purchase Segways alternate funding possibilities will be discussed so as not to disrupt the university’s budget. Segways retail for about $4,500.
Pittman said that if UPD decides to buy Segways, they will try to get a bulk-order discount from Alaska Segway or a government agency deal.
“I don’t think they’re worth it,” said Justin Carr, a sophomore from the radiological technology department.
“We have a small campus,” said Carr “We have plenty of bushes and trees where a Segway can’t go. I don’t think they’re worth the cost.”
Pittman said the general comments he’s gotten from his officers so far seem to be favoring the Segways, number one being that they are just fun to drive.
“They’re not difficult to handle,” said Deputy Chief Ron Sands, who has first-hand experience riding the Segways. “They’re actually more maneuverable than a bike. You can turn without going forward or backward.”
Aside from the obvious fun-factor, Pittman and Sands said the Segways have many practical uses for officers to take advantage of, such as they get officers out of the patrol cars. Pittman said one of the major goals of UPD is to get the officers in the public eye.
“You can observe things that you can’t from the seat of a patrol car,” said Pittman. “Anytime you’re outside of a car you have a wider perspective.”
Bicycles could also achieve that goal, but Pittman said the Segways would be preferable because they are not nearly as common as a bicycle, and therefore the officer would be spotted sooner.
“One difference between bicycles and a Segway is that people are drawn to a Segway more than a bicycle,” said Pittman. “So officers are noticed quicker and more often which can deter a crime from happening.”
The Segways, which can reach speeds of up to 12 miles per hour, aren’t without their drawbacks. The major one being how they will perform during the winter, which covers a rather significant portion of the school year. This is the drawback most students are citing as being a possible downfall for the program.
“Well, all I have to say is good luck in the winter,” said Catherine Opgenorth, a senior psychology major.
Pittman is not worried about how the Segways will perform on the ice and snow. He said that Alaska Segway has tested them on ice rinks with admirable results. In fact, Pittman is sure the Segways will perform better in the winter than bicycles would. The main disadvantage of the winter weather is that the Segways offer no protection from the elements.
“These things are more adaptable than a bicycle in cold weather,” said Sands. “The only real minus is that the driver is exposed.”