The first person who saw one thought George Jetson was arresting him.
Though it isn't exactly a flying car, the two new Segway Personal Transporters now being used by Cincinnati Police officers in Price Hill look like something out of the future.
During the training portion for the officers who will use the devices -- and several have applied to do so -- a man drinking outdoors in the business district was arrested after it was discovered he had several outstanding felony warrants, said Capt. Andrew Raabe, District Three commander.
"He put a brand name on these for us already," Raabe said about the Segways that started patrols Friday afternoon. "He said you would have never got me if you hadn't pulled up on that space-age vehicle with Officer Jetson on it. So we are going to turn some heads out there. That's what we want -- the visibility factor."
The single-person two-wheeled vehicles are battery-powered and self-balancing. They were first introduced in December 2001. Dean Kaman, the celebrity entrepreneur who invented the Segway and several medical devices, believed the Segways would eventually replace vehicles on short distances but the devices have been slow to catch on to the general public.
Outside law enforcement activities, Segways other main use appears to be for rolling tours in popular tourist destinations, such as Washington, D.C. where a two-hour tour costs $65.
Law enforcement agencies in Florence, Newport and Covington all said they do not have the devices and have no immediate plans to get them, though Florence and Covington police departments have discussed the possibility of getting them.
"The topic comes up from time to time. We think they are a great idea," said Capt. Linny Cloyd, a spokesman for the Florence Police Department. "I think it's great that Cincinnati is using them. I think they are going to see some great results."
Cloyd said the better results would come in the form of being closer to the public, able to talk and be around more easily, something police patrol cars often limit.
"I think the worst thing they did was put radios in the police cars and give us air conditioning," he said. "There's a lot that is missed between that thin piece of (car window) glass."
Downtown Cincinnati law firm Frost Brown Todd bought a Segway in June 2003 so a clerk could go between their Fifth & Main street offices and the Hamilton County Courthouse delivering documents. Three days after the clerk started using it, though, Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis banned the device from the courthouse, citing safety concerns similar to the reasons bicycles, inline skates and scooters are also banned from the courthouse.
Police like the devices -- they have tops speeds of 12.5 miles an hour, a near-zero turning radius and are very quiet -- because they can respond to calls and emergencies faster than on foot, yet are out in the open, near the public and closer to the community.
Cincinnati Police Chief Thomas Streicher believes the Segways, and other technology, will begin to have an impact on crime.
"It really makes the environment unstable for the criminal, which is good," he said. "We want them uncomfortable and if they act up too much they go to jail."
The Segways -- which list for $5,660 each -- were paid for through a $250,000 grant from Target Corp. used to fund The Western Corridor Safe City Project.
The Western Corridor centers along Glenway Avenue and nearby streets throughout Price Hill and Westwood. The Safe City project, which began in February 2006, is designed to partner community members and law enforcement to help reduce crime through new and improved technology and community engagement.
Segways are made by Bedford, N.H.-based Segway Inc. and come with two lithium-ion battery packs, capable of traveling up to 24 miles on a single charge. Each Segway has five gyroscopes that are guided by a proprietary computer system that monitors the devices position 100 times per second, allowing the device to self-balance and stay upright on two horizontal wheels. Riders then use their weight -- leaning forward, backward, right or left -- to make the Segway move or turn.
The two Segways now in use by the Cincinnati Police are black with red and blue police lights attached to the handle bar and stand about eight inches above the ground -- giving officers a better vantage point to see over crowds.
Police also unveiled a new wireless, portable street corner camera system capable of sending video feeds over a cellular network to the Internet, where police or citizens' patrol volunteers can monitor on a computer at home, in the police station or in a vehicle around the corner. Police said the new cameras are a major improvement over stationary cameras already in use, because these
The cameras also being paid for through the Safe City project.