During his regular work week, Turlock Police Officer Joe Dusel can be seen patrolling the streets of town atop his motorcycle. On Friday, however, Dusel traded in his usual two-wheeled motorized vehicle for a three-wheeler. Dusel wasn't off-roading, instead the traffic safety officer was patrolling the parking lots around Monte Vista Crossings shopping center atop one of the police department's Trikke Carving Vehicles, an electric powered personal transportation device.
The Turlock Police Department obtained four Trikkes in 2013 through a grant from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, which covered the more than $18,000 necessary to purchase the devices and outfit them with lights and sirens.
The Trikkes are deployed during special enforcement times, like during parades, festivals, the annual county fair and during the busy holiday season, when distracted shoppers — and their vehicles — can be targeted by pickpockets and thieves.
"I like using the Trikke because I'm taller and able to see more over the cars," said Dusel. "It's easier to spot when something's not right."
When members of the police department's bike unit are deployed for a special enforcement they can choose whether to patrol on a bicycle or one of the Trikkes, according to Turlock Police spokesperson Officer Mayra Lewis.
"I personally prefer the Trikke because it goes faster than I can ever pedal," said Lewis, who is a member of the bike unit. "Also, when deploying on a bicycle there is always a possibly that I may have to engage a suspect to successfully take him in to custody. On a Trikke you simple dismount and contact the suspect having exerted zero energy trying to catch up to them – this in my opinion puts me in a position of advantage."
Dusel and his Trikke attracted a lot of attention on Friday, something he said is normal.
"People have a lot of questions," he said.
Having a police presence in the crowded parking lots during the busiest shopping time of the year isn't just good public relations, it also deters would-be criminals.
"The primary focus of officers working the shopping centers on Trikkes during the holidays is to create a presence. This allows members of the community feel safe while doing their holiday shopping," said Lewis. "While creating a presence, officers are also looking for suspicious activity and are readily available to address any kind of criminal activity taking place."