Call it the modern-day equivalent of the mounted patrol.
A sleek Segway electric scooter was donated to the Alexandria Police Department last week, and officials said they expect officers to begin using it on patrols and in Old Town next month.
The $5,145 Segway was donated by the Alexandria Police Foundation, a group founded by residents to support and finance initiatives for the 300-member force.
At an unveiling last week, Alexandria officers tested the device. Designed for police officers, the model is equipped with a GPS tracking system and a handlebar guard for mounting lights, sirens or other accessories.
"We think this will be a very effective tool used in our patrol division," said Capt. John Crawford, a police spokesman. "It's going to give us greater access and flexibility. . . . Where you can walk, you can ride the Segway."
At first, the department's lone Segway will be assigned to the community support section, a specialty unit that includes officers assigned to patrol residential complexes on foot and by bicycle, Crawford said.
"We thought this would be a valuable tool to ride in the neighborhoods and in alleyways," he said. "For residential officers, riding on a Segway versus walking the beat will be great for them. There are lots of incentives."
For instance, the Segway's platform raises officers eight inches off the ground, offering them a clearer view of a crowd. It also allows officers to travel faster than 12 mph, making it tougher for criminals to escape, Crawford said.
"They'll be hard-pressed to get away from an officer on a Segway," he said.
The devices have gained in popularity among area law enforcement agencies. D.C. officers use the i180 Police Segway Human Transporter in the 2nd and 4th police districts, officials said, and the Arlington County Sheriff's Office will soon receive a model.
The Segway police model has also come in handy for security officers at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, said Clarence R. Edwards, a sales representative at the Capital Segway store in the District, which has sold the model to area agencies.
"It's gaining in popularity because of its practicality," Edwards said. "The Segway makes its users easily mobile around the city and the airport, and it makes them approachable."
Officers in the Alexandria department will soon be trained on the machines, Crawford said.
"This is going to be a great tool for us," he said. "It's great to get in and out of neighborhoods. On parade routes, we'll be able to zip in and out of security points.
"On roads that are blocked off, with no traffic allowed to pass through, we'll be able to easily get around."
Crawford said the department's parking enforcement unit might also use the scooter.
Instead of getting in and out of their vehicles, the parking enforcement officers would be able to hop off the Segway when ticketing vehicles.
Equally important, the Segway makes for a fabulous marketing tool, Crawford said.
"It's going to attract people to us," he said. "People will come up to talk, they'll be intrigued by it, they will ask us what it does. We're going to be able to engage more with the community. Yes, it's a real excellent tool in our arsenal."