The Scottsdale Police Department is steering its downtown patrol methods in a new direction - on three wheels and an electrical charge. For the last two weeks, officers patrolling the city's downtown have been testing a pair of three-wheeled electric vehicles that move swiftly in and around crowds and congested areas.
The department plans to purchase the devices in the coming weeks.
Except for the third wheel, the vehicles resemble Segways, and are equipped with red and blue flashing lights, a siren and a public amplification system.
Called T-3 Personal Mobility Devices, they can be set at speeds of 7, 12 or 20 mph and cost less than $5 a day to operate for an eight- to 10-hour shift, according to information from its California-based manufacturer, T-3 Motion.
Although the vehicles weigh 300 pounds, they can easily turn and provide officers with a slightly higher field of vision while being able to swiftly catch up to pedestrians.
Scottsdale is believed to be the first city in the Valley, if not the state, to use them, according to Scottsdale police Lt. Todd Muilenberg, who oversees the downtown patrol unit.
Other places residents could expect to see officers traveling on the T-3s: The parking garage at Scottsdale Fashion Square, the city's greenbelt, parade routes and events at Scottsdale Stadium.
"They're an eye-catcher," said Scottsdale police Sgt. Heidi Parrow of the downtown patrol unit. "Like a patrol car, they have limitations, and we're looking for what their most applicable uses will be. They're hard to transition from dirt to gravel to concrete, but like every new piece of equipment, they have their uses."
The $25,500 cost for the two vehicles was made possible through RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) funds confiscated from drug- and gang-related activity.
No cost was incurred by the city for the vehicles, which will be purchased within two weeks after testing is complete, according to Scottsdale police Sgt. Mark Clark. The purchase of more of the vehicles looks promising, Clark said.
"In the dark, we can be right up on people before they know we're there," said Scottsdale police officer Brian Amrine, who is testing a T-3 and said it gets about 15 miles per electrical charge.
"The vehicles are a new tool we've been testing to increase our visibility and public relations," Muilenberg said. "They're between a bicycle and a patrol car, and we're looking to see how effective they will be."