On Halloween night, the sidewalks of La Habra filled with costumed trick-or-treaters on the hunt for sweets.
Some areas are busier than others, with hordes of parents and children walking neighborhoods such as the north and northeast areas of the city.
That can make it difficult for officers in patrol cars to reach people if an incident were to occur.
The solution? La Habra’s bicycle patrol.
“It’s a little bit easier to maneuver around in the crowds,” Corp. Craig Hentcy said. “And the nice thing is, it lends a little bit more accessibility versus a car.”
And kids get an additional treat, as officers on bicycles hand out badge stickers and candy.
“The most special thing is… when they see us out there it’s always a positive encounter because they’re excited to see us on bikes,” Patrol Officer Cameron Luitwieler said. “They ask us questions. We can turn on the lights and sirens on the bike and they get a kick out of it.”
The La Habra Police Department has had officers patrol by bicycle on Halloween for the past three years, with multiple teams visiting neighborhoods with the most trick-or-treaters. In addition, the officers visited Calvary Chapel La Habra for its Oct. 31 event.
“Our main purpose is to go out there and show a police presence,” Luitwieler said. “We have tons of kids running up and trying to get pictures with us or trying to get candy.”
Patrol Officer Jose Sanchez enjoys seeing all the kids – and pets – in costume.
“It allows us to go out there and connect with the young generation of families,” Sanchez said.
The bike patrol wears a slightly different uniform. On previous patrols, Hentcy said people have asked if he’s a “real cop” or if he’s wearing a costume.
“Yes, we’re real cops. No, we’re not in costume,” Hentcy laughs. “(The uniform) is distinctly different from the standard uniform. It does catch people off guard.”
It’s not all fun, though.
Bike patrol officers also make arrests. The most common crime on Halloween night is property theft, often from people not locking their vehicles or leaving purses or other valuables visible in the vehicle.
Another concern is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which tends to spike on holidays.
“We’re working and it’s a patrol, so if something goes on we have a duty to respond,” Hentcy said.
“I think people are realizing we’re out there, and we do care, and we’re taking time away from our families to make sure they’re safe and that they enjoy their holiday,” Luitwieler said. “I like getting to meet everybody, seeing all the little kids super excited to be out there and excited to show us what they got. That’s probably the best thing.”