Canton Cuts Bicycle Patrol Program

CANTON, Ohio (AP) - The Rev. Ron Klingler likes to see police officers on bikes near his St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.

They often spend time with adults who eat lunch at the church on Thursdays.

"They were always very visible," Klingler said.

However, in the next few weeks, those six officers will trade in their bikes for patrol cruisers due a scaled back community-policing program.

Joe Concatto, Canton safety director, said the city must cut $1.75 million from this year's budget and another $4 million by late next year.

The rest of the community policing force -- a sergeant, three Drug Abuse Resistance Education officers and two officers on downtown walking beats -- also will be moved into patrol cars.

Police Chief Thomas Wyatt said the staffing change should save in overtime cost by making more officers available for patrol.

By the end of April, the city already had spent more than $180,000 in overtime for patrol officers, or $46,000 ahead of last year's pace.

John Eck, associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati, said some cities don't limit community policing to a few officers. He said it can be a philosophy.

"It's fixing small problems before they're large and curbing crime before it starts," he said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)