The new vehicles have sparked conversations between students and officers.
Students returning to Lehigh’s campus this fall may soon catch a glimpse of a Lehigh University Police Department officer gliding by on either a Segway or a three-wheeled T-3 Motion scooter called ‘the chariot.’
The new energy-efficient vehicles were purchased this past summer, and campus police quickly acclimated themselves to them, according to Ed Shupp, chief of the Lehigh University Police Department
“Some of our police officers received special training to operate the Segways, and we expect that eventually, most of our officers will be able to as well,” he says.
The Segways can travel up to 12 miles per hour and the T-3, up to 18 mph. Faster than speeds obtained through mountain bikes, the Segways and T-3 scooter are also fuel efficient, able to run for 12 hours on an electrical charge and longer on a battery back-up.
“It’s a great savings on fuel costs, which went up astronomically this past year,” Shupp says.
The new vehicles have the added advantage of encouraging more social interaction between LUPD officers and members of the campus community – a key component of the community policing model Shupp’s department embraces.
“We want to build on our relationship with the community,” he says. “We’re always interested in ways to make that happen. These vehicles can go places a traditional squad car can’t go, and they encourage a lot more face-to-face interaction. When our officers are out on campus in one of these, they get stopped all the time to talk about them.”
LUPD Sergeant Brian Kelly frequently operates a Segway around campus and finds that the two-wheeled vehicle generates great interest.
“The students are sort of intrigued by them,” he says. “We get a lot of questions and a lot of positive comments about them.”
Kelly says the Segway can offer access to any building already modified for handicap access, which extends their utility for patrol purposes. “We can take these up hills, inside buildings, even elevators.”
Both new modes of transportation were pressed into service during the university’s historic visit by the Dalai Lama in mid-July and will be used to reach all corners of the university’s hilly campus. They were also used for general patrol purposes during a series of first-year events welcoming the Class of 2012 to Lehigh.
While the first in the region to incorporate Segways into their department’s fleet of vehicles, the LUPD joins a number of universities across the country that see the wisdom of fuel-efficient vehicles. Princeton, Wake Forest, Duke and the University of Miami have all begun adding Segways to their fleet of patrol vehicles, and many more are expected to follow, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal.
The addition of the three new vehicles to the existing LUPD fleet of nine squad cars, three SUVs and two unmarked vehicles also raises the visibility of the officers on duty, thus acting as a potential deterrent, Shupp added.
-- Linda Harbrecht