To passersby, the sight of UMass Lowell police officers zipping around on three-wheeled electric vehicles may be a novelty, but for campus police, the scooter-like machines are an effective tool for community policing.
“It gives us the opportunity to observe things that we wouldn’t have access to in a cruiser,” says Officer Fred Rheault, who serves as the instructor for the department’s T-3 electric vehicles. “It’s also great for people to see the police presence in those hard-to-reach areas.”
The University has a fleet of four three-wheeled Electric Stand-up Vehicles (ESVs) and officers are using them more than ever to patrol the campus, Rheault says.
“They are a good community policing, crime prevention, community relations and crime-fighting tool,” says Chief Randy Brashears.
Manufactured by Costa Mesa, Calif.-based T3 Motion, the ESVs debuted on campus four years ago. Powered by battery, they run for about 16 hours on a single charge and can travel at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. Each is equipped with lights, siren and a backpack, which contains a first aid kit and any other equipment and paperwork that the officers need. Rheault, for instance, totes campus maps to distribute to campus visitors and newcomers.
Most members of the UMass Lowell police force have been trained to ride the vehicles. They learn how to steer and turn and to maneuver in tight spaces like elevators, Brashears says.
“They are pretty easy to operate,” says Rheault. “It’s really a matter of common sense.”
The ESVs complement the police department’s bicycle fleet and cruisers and they are consistent with the University’s sustainability initiative since they do not consume gasoline, Brashears says. Plus, they offer advantages over foot patrols because of their speed. Because the officers stand on a nine-inch platform as they ride, they have a better view of their surroundings.
Officers use the T3 vehicles to travel between different parts of campus, often prompting double-takes – and questions from people. Rheault earned a legion of young fans at a daycare center near East Campus when he was patrolling recently. He stopped and demonstrated vehicle, to the delight of the preschoolers.
“The T3 was a big hit with the kids,” he says.