Recently, many security departments, especially those that serve a multi-facility or campus-type setting such as colleges and universities, have incorporated the use of bicycles as part of their vehicle patrols. The advantages of a bicycle include dramatically reduced maintenance costs as well as the fact that the purchase of a bicycle is a fraction of any other type of motorized vehicle. Additionally, many individuals who utilize bicycles enjoy the physical exercise which occurs when conducting patrols. Disadvantages of bicycles include their restricted use during inclement weather and during hours of darkness. Some resistance toward required bicycle use may also exist initially but this resistance is usually for only a short time. Industrial-type tricycles have become popular with many departments since they are usually easier to operate.

No matter what type of vehicle is used when conducting external patrols, the purpose is the same— Observation. A security officer must put forth an effort while patrolling that increases the likelihood that, if something abnormal or unusual were to occur on the exterior of the facility, the event would be noticed. Far too often, external patrols become very routine, tedious and boring. The security officer finds himself daydreaming, listening to the vehicle radio, smoking a cigarette and/or, in general, just waiting for time to pass. Usually it is during these times that an unexpected event occurs in the parking lot and the security department is then reacting to the event rather than actually preventing or deterring an incident.

While conducting an exterior patrol, security personnel must be aware of the normal routine and behavior of all individuals who enter and exit the facility. A security officer must know that the behavior of an observed individual appears normal (i.e. when walking to their vehicle they do not appear frightened or in a hurry) or unusual (i.e. a person continues to sit in a vehicle 10 minutes after leaving the facility). The point to be made is that it is often difficult to distinguish between the behavior of an individual preparing to commit a crime and the innocent employee or visitor who may be having a problem of some kind. The key point is that as security personnel, we remain alert and make reasonable inquiries such as, “May I help you?” to individuals whose behavior appears unusual. By taking an active interest in learning what is routine from what is unusual and by investigating suspicions, hunches or observations, security personnel will greatly increase their probability of success in providing effective loss prevention.