Program to put more squads on the streetA pilot program to put marked police cars in more Superior neighborhoods is underway. As an added benefit, the move could free up parking space at the Government Center.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
A pilot program to put marked police cars in more Superior neighborhoods is underway. As an added benefit, the move could free up parking space at the Government Center.
Approved by the Superior City Council last year, the take-home squad program will put an additional five cars on the road by fall.
Taking a marked car home at night promotes a sense of ownership and should improve maintenance, said Capt. Matt Markon of the Superior Police Department.
“City (squad) cars get used kind of rough sometimes,” he said. “Its the nature of the job.” The city’s fleet of 14 intensive-use squads are in operation 24 hours a day. Sometimes officers drop off the vehicle for the next shift without filling up the gas tank, or forget to write up a problem or odd noise they noticed during the shift.
When one person is responsible for the vehicle they take more pride in it, Markon said, leading to better maintenance. More cars driven less miles mean the vehicles will not be replaced as often.
Markon noted the difference in mileage between a take-home K9 unit vehicle currently used by Todd Maas and other squads purchased the same year, 2007. Maas’ car had 29,500 miles on it while the intensive-use squads had driven between 62,000 and 73,000 miles. The department usually replaces cars soon after they reach 100,000 miles.
Fifth District Councilor Ed Anderson has been a big supporter of the plan.
“I’ve seen the benefits of the take-home program in the (Douglas County) Sheriff’s Department,” said Anderson, a detective sergeant with the department. The county has had take-home squads for nearly 20 years.
The concept is used by State Patrol officers as well as police departments in Appleton and New Berlin, Markon said.
The switch could also free up 15 to 20 parking spots in the Government Center lot. Right now, officers come to work and park their personal vehicles in the lot before driving out in the squad cars, Anderson said. The take-home program would open up those personal vehicle spaces.
“We’re talking about spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to expand parking,” Anderson said, so extending the life of the current parking lot is worth it.
There are other, intangible benefits to sending squad cars home. The sight of one on the corner could actually prevent crime.
“You’re not likely to commit a crime with a police car sitting there,” Anderson said, whether there’s someone in it or not.
The move also helps neighbors identify and get to know police officers, he said, which builds community trust.
“Are there costs involved? Certainly,” Anderson said. “The most costly part of it is building up the fleet in the first place” so each officer has their own vehicle to take home.
A new Crown Victoria costs the city about $22,000, Markon said. Another $18,000 is required to outfit it for police duty — including a computer, video ICOP unit, radar, cage and hard backed seat.
The number of miles officers have to patrol remains fairly constant whether five cars operate 24 hours a day or 20 cars operate eight hours a day, Anderson said. Maintenance costs should also stay constant.
The addition of a few extra squad cars would have a “negligible effect” on the city’s insurance policy, according to Assistant Finance Director Daniel Zuchowski. The city’s $25,000 policy covers approximately 149 vehicles, from public works vehicles to fire engines, and is constantly in flux as vehicles rotate in and out of the fleet.
The money for the pilot program is, in effect, already built into the department’s budget. Capital Improvement Project funds purchase new squads each year. If the two-year pilot program is a success, Markon said, the department would have to look for additional funding to expand it.
The Superior Police Department is starting small with Maas’ car and three new squads, purchased with 2009 CIP funds, that should be on the street by July. Police Chief Floyd Peters is requesting council approval to purchase two additional squads this fall using 2010 CIP money. Department members hope to prove that take-home squads make a positive impact.
“If we’re saving money, it’s a good thing for the city,” Markon said.
The program, along Peters’ request, will be discussed at Thursday’s Finance Committee meeting at 5 p.m. in room 204 of the Government Center.