The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department comes across bicycles with unknown owners quite often during the course of their work. These are bikes that have been stolen and recovered or simply found on the streets. Once an investigation has been completed, the sheriff’s office attempts to contact the owner. If they can’t identify or find the owner, the bicycle heads to auction.
The Sheriff’s Department auctions unclaimed property a few times a year, but they don’t always sell all the bikes they have on hand. Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller began looking for ways to use, rather than warehouse, these bicycles. That is when partnering with KPEP came to mind.
“I thought, ‘Let’s work with KPEP to rehabilitate these bikes,’” explained Sheriff Fuller. “I knew we could make them roadworthy and get them back in the community for use by people who need them.”
The collaboration kicked off in late 2017. KCSD sends bicycles to KPEP, and residents at the Olmstead Road facility check the mechanics and determine what they need to ensure that the bikes function properly. They then make necessary repairs to the bicycles to get them in working order. Sometimes they must combine two bikes into one to ensure they are safe. Some bikes simply need to be cleaned and get a fresh coat of paint, while other bicycles require replacement parts. Those in greater disrepair are used for parts.
The residents at Olmstead Road are gaining experience in bicycle repair and enjoying the opportunity to give back to the community. Whether a bike is in good shape or is used for parts, it is rewarding to see these bikes back in use and made available to people in need. To date, the Sheriff’s Department has sent 28 bicycles to KPEP, and KPEP has returned 17 bikes to the community to help someone in need.
Eventually, as the project gains traction, we plan to donate the bicycles to local non-profit organizations that can distribute them to individuals in need of transportation.