HAYWARD -- Police are beefing up their downtown patrol, adding another bicycle officer and more patrol shifts.
The department revived its bike patrolling earlier this year when Officer Craig Fovel was assigned the downtown beat. Fovel, a bicycle-certified officer, has become a familiar sight, patrolling parking lots, riding down pedestrian walkways, and rolling his bike into shops to check in with merchants.
A second officer, Aaron Runolfson, began patrolling with Fovel last week, said police Lt. Dave Lundgren.
"We are thrilled," said Renee Rettig, manager of The Book Shop on B Street. "It was great to have one officer; it's even better when it's two. It's been quieter downtown, and we expect a great summer."
Moving the north-district police office downtown also has helped, she said. Police are now in the building at Main and C streets that once housed the Hayward Area Historical Society.
Fovel and Runolfson, who also is bike certified, will work day shifts Wednesday and Thursday and swing shifts Friday and Saturday evenings, Lundgren said. To be certified, officers are trained to ride down stairs, get off a bicycle quickly, maneuver through crowds and multi-task while riding.
"We're also adding two officers for downtown Mondays and Tuesdays during the daytime," he said. "We went from one officer with four-day coverage to two officers every day covering six days a week."
The Monday and Tuesday shifts are overtime, and the officers working them may not necessarily be on bicycles, Lundgren said. Hayward police took part in a 15-member task force to reduce crime downtown in May. They joined Alameda County sheriff's deputies and probation officers, making arrests, including for sales of heroin, Ecstasy and methamphetamines, Lundgren said.
They also did a sting, leaving a bicycle with a tracking device outside a coffee shop.
"A suspect came by on foot, looked around suspiciously, and then got on the bike and pedalled off. We took him into custody two blocks away," Lundgren said.
The bicycle patrols are a continuation of that crime-reduction program, he said.
The increased patrol will continue through Aug. 30.
"We will have our high-profile bicycle officers for the summer, to be preventive and show a strong police presence in the downtown area. We are mixing the hours up so they are visible downtown during the day and on weekend evenings, when there is more activity," Lundgren said.
Hayward Ace Hardware on B Street saw the benefit of the program last week, said owner Jim Wieder. When store workers confronted a shoplifter who also had harassed a customer, they were assisted by a bike patrol officer who happened to be right outside the door.
"The bike patrol has made a big difference in downtown Hayward. I've been in business here nine years, and it's the best it's ever been downtown," Wieder said. "This is welcomed by merchants, and it's working out great."
Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.