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BBC World News
Monday, 9 October, 2000, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK 

Gambia's police try pedal power

The cycle patrols have had a great reception

By Ebrima Sillah in Banjul

For many years now, the Gambian Police has been battling hard to restore public confidence in its ailing image.  Allegations of corruption and inefficiency as well as bias, harassment and intimidation are not new.

"Children ringing their bicycle bells can be seen, chasing them across the city", Ebrima Sillah

In response to these concerns the police are trying to revive public faith in schemes like the bicycle patrol.

A pedal power fleet has been recently introduced in the capital Banjul to reduce the rising level of crime.  Each patrol officer is provided with a brand new blue uniform and bicycle.  Officers no longer have to patrol on foot, sweating in the blazing sun.

Patrolling zones

In Banjul, there is new air of enthusiasm about the introduction of the new patrol scheme.  Before, complainants had to hire a taxi to transport police officers to the scene of a crime.  Now because Banjul is now divided into different patrolling zones, people can simply walk to the nearest zone and register a complaint and a police officer will soon be there to sort out the problem.

Cycling officers are attracting attention where ever they go.  Children ringing their bicycle bells can be seen, chasing them across the city.

The pedal patrol at the moment runs from early morning to early evening but local people want the patrols increased to around the clock.  And other parts of the country with big crime problems are demanding that something similar is tried in their area.  The police are taking the demands seriously.

There are plans to cut back on administration and increase the amount of patrols across the country.

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