News Stories

Ginger Fights Crime

You hear the siren and see the flashing lights out of the corner of your eye?not another ticket! You pull over and along comes?a cop on a Segway scooter?

It could happen to you in Atlanta, where the police are riding the new $9,000 scooters. The police have invested in a battalion of Segway Human Transporter vehicles. The battery-powered, two-wheeled scooters can go a maximum speed of 15 mph, so they?ll be best for chasing muggers and purse-snatchers.

Inventor Dean Kamen introduced the gyroscope-stablized scooters last fall after leaking out enticing tidbits about the secret invention for months, under the codenames IT and Ginger. Many people, who were expecting something much more dramatic, were disappointed when they first saw the scooters and wondered if anyone would actually use them.

The Atlanta police are borrowing six of the scooters from Kamen's company for a two-month test run. They want to know whether scooter patrols will be more effective than foot or bicycle patrols, and also hope to use the machines to boost police visibility."It's much easier to ride this than walk," says Officer Jennings Kilgore. The scooter detects tiny shifts in body weight, rolling forward or backward depending on which way its user leans. Its gyroscopes make it difficult for the scooter to tip over.

The police will use them in patrols at the Atlanta International Airport and in the downtown business district. The debt-ridden department has not committed itself to buying any of the machines."Don't even ask me about the money," says Major John Woodard.

Atlanta is the first city to give the scooters a broad tryout, according to Segway officials. How the scooters will hold up on the streets of Atlanta, where huge potholes sometimes go unfilled for months, remains to be seen. Police were put through an obstacle course as part of their Segway training. "It just went right through everything," Kilgore says. "It'll go about as fast as the normal person can run. It's a pretty good clip."

The police say they think the Segways can help them catch all but the fastest criminals. A special turbo key can send the Segway zooming off at 15 mph ? the normal top speed is 12 ? while the fastest humans can run at 20 mph, although only for a short distance."I don't think anything is perfect in those situations," Kilgore says. "We won't know till we get involved in some real pursuits."

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