How adding Trikke Positrons to their fleet is helping this police department reinvent patrol and strengthen community engagement
The personal patrol vehicles offer several surprising benefits at a sprawling downtown college campus
Sponsored by Trikke
By Laura Neitzel, Police1 BrandFocus Staff
The El Centro Campus of Dallas College is a unique environment. The college encompasses several noncontiguous buildings spread across several city blocks in a busy and congested area of downtown Dallas, Texas. Within a few blocks, there is a transit hub, a light rail stop and a Greyhound bus station. Downtown commuters, tourists, students and people experiencing homelessness crowd the streets.
The jurisdiction for the Dallas College Police Department, El Centro Campus, is a patchwork that extends from building to sidewalk to certain floors in a commercial building. While Dallas College PD’s jurisdiction ostensibly only covers the campus buildings and adjoining sidewalks, it intersects and adjoins jurisdictions for the Dallas Police Department, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and Dallas Marshal’s Office. On one side of the street is Dallas College PD, and on the other side is Dallas PD or DART.
Whether doing door checks in one of the campus buildings or traveling several city blocks between buildings, El Centro officers cover a lot of ground. When they are called upon to provide mutual aid to Dallas PD and DART, El Centro officers are often first on the scene – thanks to their use of Trikke Positron.
How it started
Dallas College was one of the first two police departments in Texas to purchase the Trikke Positron, a three-wheeled personal patrol vehicle. Bridging the gap between foot and vehicle patrols, the “Trikke” – as it is affectionately known – quickly and easily navigates through traffic and crowded areas, making it ideal for patrolling the El Centro campus.
When Captain James Smith, Jr. joined the El Centro Campus unit of Dallas College Police Department, he immediately recognized campus police would be well served by personal patrol vehicles. Smith was familiar with the concept from his previous agency, which used similar vehicles to patrol a large entertainment district. Smith was considering purchasing the same type of vehicle when he found out about Trikke.
Smith attended a Trikke demonstration and after careful deliberation decided to purchase several Trikkes instead of the brand used at the other agency. For numerous reasons, he has never regretted that decision. Today, Dallas College has 12 Trikke units, six of which are assigned to the El Centro campus.
Dallas College PD, El Centro Campus, recognizes many benefits from their deployment of Trikke units.
1. Speed and agility.
First and foremost is the combination of speed and agility. “Our mobility on the Trikkes makes us a lot more mobile and our response a lot faster,” said Smith. When El Centro officers are responding to an emergency, they can zoom down the street or sidewalk on a Trikke much quicker than an officer could on foot or in a vehicle trying to make it through snarled traffic.
The Trikke Positron 60V can turn on a dime and go almost anywhere an officer can go on foot, but even faster – navigating stairs, hopping curbs and climbing up to a 15% grade or 9-degree incline.
“You can put a Trikke into whatever environment you need it in and you’re going get much more from it than if the officer was on a bike. That is definitely more than anybody on the foot patrol,” said Smith. “With a Trikke, you’re just cruising right through the environment and covering a lot more area with a lot less energy.”
For most patrols around campus, El Centro PD officers keep the five-speeds at level two or three, but when needed, the Positron 60V can accelerate from zero to 35 mph in 15 seconds or less.
“If you put it on level five, you need to hang on,” said Smith.
In this era where de-escalation is emphasized, it’s also important that by traveling on Trikkes, officers don’t arrive at a scene already out of breath or hyped on adrenaline. “You can have your sense about you,” says Smith, “so you can say, ‘Hey, I'm ready. Tell me what happened,’ instead of ‘Let me catch my breath.’”
Watch Captain Smith demonstrate turning radius and a cruising speed on campus:
2. Command presence and visibility.
Because officers are positioned as much as one foot higher than they would be from the ground, Trikke offers more command presence and a better view. That gives officers on Trikkes an advantage when monitoring buses dropping off high-school students for early college programs or patrolling long, crowded corridors and common areas on campus.
In one instance, El Centro officers were called to assist on an incident where DART police were attempting to retrieve a less-lethal weapon a suspect was wielding at the train station. The crowd was becoming adversarial toward police, so the responding El Centro officer positioned the Trikke as a buffer between the police and the crowd. The additional elevation allowed the officer to see everything that was transpiring as officers apprehended the suspect.
The height of the Trikke also makes officers more visible on the streets as they make their rounds to other buildings. “We’ve had people having medical distress, and they’ll flag us down as we’re going by. We’ll stop and try to help them,” said Smith. “It helps us be more visible.”
The Trikke can also be as visible or as discreet as the situation warrants.
As an electric vehicle, it’s virtually silent. “It doesn’t squeak. It doesn’t make any noise. It is not an engine, so you can drive right up on people walking with their little earbuds in,” said Smith. “Unless you’re dinging your bell or blowing the horn, you can just ease around them gently, and they don’t even know you’re there. That's a great benefit.”
On the other hand, if visibility is warranted, the Positron comes with a three-tone, 110-decibel siren, brake lights, turn signals and seven-panel emergency warning lights, so it can get attention when needed.
3. Training and safety.
Like any police tool, injuries can happen if an officer is not properly trained and careful when operating it. Dallas College Police Department requires that officers go through training. After a couple of hours of classwork, trainees get about four hours of hands-on training. “If you know how to water ski or snow ski, you can adapt to this very easily,” said Smith.
More complex moves – like driving over rugged terrain or up or down inclines – require additional training. Smith and other officers have also gone through additional training and instructor certification so they can teach Trikke operation to other officers.
Of the 18 sworn officers on the El Centro campus, 14 are Trikke-certified operators and two new officers are on deck to be trained.
Smith has high praise for Trikke’s customer service. Trikke sells kits and go-bags that make it easy for departments to do their own basic maintenance, like changing or refilling the tires or making basic repairs. As new generations of Positrons have come out since Dallas College acquired their first ones, they have been able to retrofit older models so officers can check out any Trikke from the fleet and expect it to operate in the same way. Trikke has even provided videos to instruct Dallas College PD in making its own repairs, and they are always available to answer questions, says Smith.
How it’s going
One unexpected benefit is how Trikkes have helped foster community engagement. Officers are more visible, and the Trikkes become a conversation starter.
“It’s a good PR tool,” said Smith. Because most people haven’t seen such a vehicle before, they will make a friendly approach to El Centro officers on their Trikkes – especially when officers are wearing their more casual Trikke uniforms. “A lot of people are curious and will say, ‘It looks cool – can you gimme a ride?’ or they’ll ask, ‘What is this device, and what are you doing, and how does it work?”
People will even ask for pictures with the officers on their Trikkes, which Smith will accommodate – with appropriate restrictions and safety measures, of course.
Smith believes almost any police department would have a purpose to start a Trikke unit, whether to patrol high-crime areas, entertainment districts, shopping malls, parking lots, school campuses or any other large area. A Trikke is stealthy enough that an officer can sneak up on people doing what they shouldn’t be doing – and fast enough to catch a suspect if they run.
“The addition of the Trikke units to the police fleet inventory, especially in a downtown environment, enhances our ability to respond more quickly to emergency situations,” said El Centro Campus President and Vice Chancellor of Operations Brad Williams. “They are a great ice breaker for officers interacting with our staff and students.”
To learn more, visit Trikke. Visit the Trikke booth #5151 at the 2023 IACP convention in San Diego in October to get an up-close and personal look at the Trikke Positron Elite 72V and the unveiling of the all-new Positron 72V XL.