RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - They've been plagued with vandalism, drug deals and car break-ins and now police are fighting back! The Richmond Police Department is taking new measures to make sure you and your family are safe when visiting city parks.
The specialized crime fighter for Forest Hill Park in South Richmond comes to the rescue on a bike. Police tell us it's the most practical way to patrol parks. In the three weeks since the department has created a consistent police presence, that officer has made several arrests.
He's dodging obstacles and fighting crime, all while Officer Stacy Rogers peddles through the park.
"The very first day riding the trail, I passed some mountain bikers and they were like 'Whoa! Police on the trail! Never seen that before!'" said Rogers.
The initiative has paid off. In just the last couple weeks, Rogers arrested people using narcotics on park grounds and a man who failed to register as a sex offender.
Patrolling these areas always presents unique challenges for the police force. It's difficult to get around in a regular patrol car, leaving vulnerabilities.
"We know that many parts of the criminal element do sort of go down deep into the park and come out at times," said Lt. John O'Kleasky.
Now, Rogers' consistent presence helps create relationships with the community. He introduces himself to every park visitor he sees and has handed out hundreds of cards.
"Literally, I get to come to work, ride a bike, stay in shape and I get to meet a bunch of people in the neighborhood that are excited to see police and excited to have us here," said Rogers.
"It's wonderful to see the city is really supporting this whole venture because we come down here, we can feel safe. People bring their pets, their children. It's just a nice community atmosphere," said Stratford Hills resident Mindy Godding.
Rogers, who is armed, also patrols many of the surrounding neighborhoods. His beat goes from the Nickel Bridge east to Cowardin.