- Associated Press - Sunday, April 20, 2014

SALTVILLE, Va. (AP) - It has an eco-friendly footprint that is an earth lover’s dream and a whisper-quiet engine that could be a criminal’s nightmare.

This going-green crime fighting machine is now in the Saltville Police Department’s patrol pool and it’s believed to be the only one of its kind in Virginia.

Chief of Police Rob Hall took delivery of the agency’s Zero Dual Sport police motorcycle in February and its specs are impressive: an all-electric bike that can reach speeds as high as 95 miles per hour and can be driven for 130 miles on one charge.

Hall said the cycle is built by a California company and was tailor-made for the rough terrain of Southwest Virginia. It was constructed to help protect the scenery that surrounds that land with zero emission exhaust. Those lands include the heavily used and unique Salt Trail that goes through the town.

“We have to patrol the trail, but the difficulty there is if we took our regular patrol vehicles onto the trail it would damage it and the cars,” the police chief said.

The quiet motor of the electric bike also gives the officer a distinct advantage over a suspect they are trying to apprehend.

“In those situations where we are trying to get to the suspect, for instance on the trail, they could hear our car coming and be long gone by the time we get there. This can get us in there and even back onto the paved street with no problem because it is built for that. For an electric bike, it has quite a lot of torque, so we don’t have to worry about riding hills with it,” Hall said.

The nearly $21,000 price tag clearly put the bike out of the range of the small town’s budget, but Hall said the purchase was financed with money recouped by Virginia in a $1.5 billion settlement reached in U.S. District Court in Abingdon with Abbott Laboratories in a case involving the false promotion of the drug Depakote.

Smyth County Commonwealth’s Attorney Roy Evans was a special assistant federal prosecutor in that case and was able to get his home locality some of the forfeiture money for law enforcement expenses, including in Saltville.

“(Evans) chose to benefit local law enforcement, which is already severely underfunded and he made the money available to us. That enabled us to get the bike and it’s paid for. It just gives us so many benefits all the way around,” the police chief said.

The bike will be on display during Abingdon’s Earth Day celebration at the Fields-Penn House on Saturday, April 26.

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Information from: Bristol Herald Courier, https://www.bristolnews.com


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