It’s still rare to see a student or professor gliding to class on a Segway Human Transporter, but soon the self-balancing, battery-powered scooters may be common fare among campus police.
Drexel University, Loyola University of New Orleans, University of Nevada at Reno, Worchester Polytechnic and Duke University have all bought Segways for their police forces.
And now, University of Maryland at College Park has joined them. Last month the University Police department purchased six new i180 Police model Segways at just under $5,000 each.
“Police departments all over the state are getting them,” said Police Capt. John Brandt. “BWI, Bell Air, Annapolis, Washington D.C., we’re just basically going with other police departments and looking into them.”
The police department has split the Segways between their operations unit at the station and their auxiliary unit on campus. The four auxiliary Segways are used by student police aids to cut down the response time for night escorts, Brandt said.
“Because of the time delay people just don’t use the escorts,” he said. “If we can shorten the amount of time it takes for us to respond, students are more likely to use it and it will make the university a safer environment.”
According to a Segway case study at Duke University, Segways are used for special events because “officers can move around much easier in the congestion than they can in a cruiser or on a bike.”
The case study said that a chief benefit of the Segway is that it raises officers off the ground, making them more visible in crowds.
Brandt agreed. He also said Segways are more useful than bike patrol in a dense area.
“[The Segways] are not much bigger or wider than a human standing and the maneuvering is much better than a bike,” Brandt said. “An officer can also carry 30 pounds of gear like first aid and CPR kits on a Segway, which makes a big difference at large campus and athletic events.”
When students on University of Maryland’s campus first spotted police officers on the zooming machines most of them responded positively.
“I thought they looked a little silly at first,” said Ashley MacMaster, a sophomore French and Spanish major. “But then I really wanted to go up and ride it. They look pretty cool.”
Senior engineering major Carl Diaz agrees.
“I asked an officer if he would take me for a spin,” said Diaz. “He didn’t, but he did zoom up and down the mall and do turns and stuff for us.”
The police department initially faced some negative responses from editorials in the campus newspaper, because of the high cost but is not crestfallen.
“Yeah the Segways aren’t cheap, Brandt said. “But what we might be able to do with them: as police aids, with better time reduction and special events patrol; that is what makes them worth it.”
“If you think about it, any police department, if they have the ability, owes it to their community to look into enabling the police to do a better job and make it a safer environment,” he said.