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Friday, February 27, 1998 Published at 00:01 GMT



World: Europe

Rollerblade cops keep villains on straight and narrow
image: [ The squad combines street credibility with high visibility ]
The squad combines street credibility with high visibility

A new police squad, the ILS, is hot on the heels of villains in the Belgian city of Antwerp.


[ image: Have blades, will travel]
Have blades, will travel
The Inline Skating Patrol is being deployed on the streets to give the police a more public profile but, for the citizens they are paid to protect, the skaters are more a source of amusement than ressurance.

However, once the novelty wears off, the authorities insist the community will feel the benefits.


[ image: Walter Dillen: blades make police more obvious]
Walter Dillen: blades make police more obvious
But you cannot just rustle up a top team from a force more used to sitting in patrol cars. The cops need training ... and lots of it, but the ILS is fast becoming a popular option for the ambitious Antwerp officer.

Walter Dillen, Deputy Commissioner of Antwerp police force, is optimistic about the bold step. "It opens up a whole new concept in community policing," he said.


[ image: Fast movers ... but where's the blue light?]
Fast movers ... but where's the blue light?
"We have to make full contact with everybody and make them think there are a lot of police on the streets."

The creation of the ILS is partly about street credibility. In a country where nearly half a million rollerblades were sold last year, it is likely to be a popular move.


[ image: Fallen cop: still a source of amusement]
Fallen cop: still a source of amusement
But what is the word on the street about rollerblading policemen?

"Now when somebody steals something, a policeman will go directly after him. It's a really good idea," said one youngster trying out his turns and jumps.


[ image:
"Keep practising, guys" - message from one young expert
But another maestro added a note of caution as he watched the policemen being put through their paces: "They need to practise more."

The move may be an imaginative approach to crime prevention, but if it comes to chasing a rollerblader with skills like those demonstrated by the kids of Antwerp, it will be a hard step for the cops to keep up.








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