Like all major universities, Duke University is constantly looking for ways to provide a safer environment for its students and staff. That’s no small feat when you consider that nearly 11,000 students and 27,000 employees live, work, study and play in an area covering more than 16 square miles.
However, Chief Clarence Birkhead, director of Duke University Police, has found a valuable new tool for his patrol officers – the Segway Human Transporter (HT). The Segway HT is a one-man transportation device that is self-balancing and can cover 8-10 miles on a single 10-cent charge of its batteries.
The Duke University Police began training on the Segway HT last fall, and put five of them into full service in February 2004. According to Chief Birkhead, the devices play a valuable role on campus.
“We are in the process of revamping our campus to try to minimize vehicle traffic,” says Birkhead. “So, with the campus becoming a little more compact we are trying to get ahead of the curve and find better ways to patrol our campus while at the same time making our police officers more accessible and visible. The Segway helps in both areas.”
Birhead has a total of 59 commissioned police officers and 65 non-commissioned security officers on his staff. Two of his officers were selected to receive training directly from Segway LLC. These two officers then trained another 18 officers on the operational use of the Segway HT. Currently, two community service officers and two uniformed officers use the units, and the reactions of the Duke students have been remarkable.
“When you put an officer in full uniform on a Segway HT he is now elevated 8-10 inches off the ground,” says Birkhead. “It makes him very visible. Students and visitors will come up and talk to the officer about the Segway. They want to know what it is and how to use it. They even have their photos taken next to the officer on the Segway. So, I would say that it has accomplished at least one of our goals which was to make us more accessible.”
The Segway HTs are also valued for their speed and versatility. “We use them for special events because officers can move around much easier in the congestion than they can in a cruiser or on a bike. And the officers are tall enough to see over the crowd and to stand out.”
Lieutenant Tony Shipman is the officer in charge of the Segway HTs and he uses the devices every day.
“The Segway HTs have become just another tool for us, in the same way we use our cruisers and our bike patrols,” says Shipman. “We use them on the main quad of the east and west campuses and around the residential halls because they can get places where our cruisers can’t go. I used one this week to test all of the emergency telephones that are spread throughout the campus and it was great. I could ride right up to the phone, test it without stepping off the unit, then move on to the next phone.
“That’s the chief patrol benefit of the Segway -- that it allows you to cover more ground in a specific amount of time. But it also makes the officer more visible among crowds,” adds Shipman. “Much better than sitting in the cruiser or hunched over a bike.”
According to Shipman the novelty of the Segway also has its advantages. “We are currently the only police force in North Carolina to use them and the students think they’re cool,” says Shipman. “This makes them perfect tools for our community service officers. We plan to use all five units during the graduation events this year, so it should be interesting to see the reactions of all the visitors.”
Note: Drexel University, Loyola University New Orleans, University of Nevada (Reno) and Worchester Polytechnic are among the other universities using Segway HTs for police patrols.
Jack Klobucar for Segway LLC
Added Value, Inc.