WMU News

Liberty Mutual gives start-up funds for bike patrol

Oct. 19, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- Officers from Western Michigan University's Department of Public Safety will soon be patrolling the campus on bicycles, thanks to a gift from a local insurance group.

The Kalamazoo office of Liberty Mutual Group recently donated $2,764 in start-up funds for a WMU bike patrol. Liberty Mutual sales representative Dennis Zant heard the University was interested in initiating a bicycle program and contacted WMU's Blaine Kalafut, assistant chief in the Department of Public Safety.

"It really did come out of the blue--a pleasant shock, to say the least," Kalafut asserts. "Dennis called me up one day and said he had heard about our plans, and he'd like to help. We had wanted to create a bicycle patrol as part of our community policing initiatives, but we just didn't have the start-up funds to get it rolling. Our department is not the typical gift recipient in this University, so it's a nice opportunity to partner with someone in the community to achieve something we both value."

The funds will be used to purchase two Trek 8000 mountain bikes specially designed for use by police, along with uniforms, helmets and other accessories. Beginning in the spring of 2001, two community policing officers will hit the streets on bikes. Kalafut says the bikes will allow officers access to areas they might not otherwise be able to patrol, and will give the department a more visible presence in communal areas of the WMU campus.

"The bicycle patrol officer will be able to go into the fountain plaza by Sprau Tower, for example, an area we could never access in our cars," he says. "Maybe people will talk to you or ask questions, or perhaps your presence will just give people a more secure feeling. Our community policing officers put a heavy emphasis on building relationships within the campus community."

A pilot program, the WMU bicycle patrol may be expanded in future years if it proves helpful to community policing efforts. Kalafut cites similar successful programs run by the city of Kalamazoo, the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University.

According to Zant, Liberty Mutual invests nationwide in a variety of safety and crime prevention programs. His office has recently become more involved in these community outreach efforts, and the bike patrol gift to WMU is one of the first Southwest Michigan initiatives.

"We're always looking for ways to strengthen the communities we live and work in, and safety initiatives are a natural match for Liberty Mutual," says Zant. "If we can get more officers out on patrol and prevent crimes like vandalism and theft to cars, that's obviously in our interest as well. There was a bicycle patrol at my daughter's college, and it was certainly a nice feeling to see those officers out interacting with the community. It's great to know that we're able to bring this kind of program to WMU."

Media contact: Jessica English, 616 387-8400, jessica.english@wmich.edu

Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
616 387-8400