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Chief’s Cruiser Plan Merits Consideration

The sight of a police cruiser parked on a neighborhood street is enough to deter most criminals. Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger knows this, and is now pushing city leaders to purchase more cruisers and implement a take-home vehicle policy for his department. The idea is worth further consideration by City Council.

During a meeting of Council’s Public Safety Committee last week, Schwertfeger said it would cost about $1.3 million to purchase enough new vehicles for a take-home program.

“That’s an investment that I think stings when you first hear it. But down the road, the return on investment is there, no doubt about it,” the chief said.

There’s something to that. A 2008 study from the International City/County Management Association found that take-home cruisers lasted at least twice as long as those that are “hot seated” — meaning they always run. That’s how the city utilizes much of its fleet now — a cruiser goes from one officer to the next, and runs all day, every day until it needs replaced.

Take-home cruisers require less maintenance, last longer and also help to increase police presence, the study found. Cities that have implemented a take-home policy have saved money on vehicle purchases long-term, according to the chief, and it also serves as an officer recruitment and retention tool.

There are issues to be discussed, such as whether officers can use their cruisers for personal business when they’re off-duty, and if they can live outside of Wheeling or Ohio County and still be eligible for the take-home program.

City leaders need to take a hard look at this proposal to determine not only the long-term savings and overall feasibility, but also if an increased number of cruisers on the streets will help to deter crime.

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