Cost of maintaining high-mileage cruisers questioned

LACONIA — Police Commission Chair Warren Clements said yesterday that he would like to know how much money in maintenance and repairs it costs the department to keep older police vehicles on the road.

Clements said he was specifically referring to vehicles with 70,000 or more miles on them.

Captain Bill Clary said it's a difficult number to provide because all of the city's vehicle maintenance in managed by employees at City Hall. He said the Police Department doesn't control those particular line items.

"We don't control spending," Clary continued. "The internal budgeting is done at City Hall."

He said the department gets "a bill" (for its records) from the Department of Public Works that includes labor for repairs and maintenance but all the movement of money is handled at the city level. He noted that even in his own annual budget preparation, he leaves those lines blank and they are filled in by city hall finance employees.

He said the department has been doing a better job in recent years of "getting rid of " old cruisers from front-line work sooner than in the past, which has saved the city money in maintenance and repair line item. He said nearly all maintenance and repairs are performed by the Public Works Department.

Clary said the ones in the best shape often get a "second life" for use by detectives as unmarked cars or for special details.

He said the department has seven front-line cruisers that rotate out of primary service when they reach 70,000 miles. He said the average cruiser clocks 30,000 miles annually.

He said two new cruisers will be included in the 2014-2015 budget that he is currently preparing.

In 2013, the department received two new SUVs and one cruiser. The department had ordered two cruisers and one SUV however there was a mix-up with the Ford dealer and the department accepted the two SUVs that were close in price. One of the new SUVs is used regularly by the shift supervisor.
Overall, Clary and other police officials have had good things to say about the new Ford Interceptors, noting they do seem to be saving the department money in its fuel line.

He said Ford has assured the nation's police departments that the company will make these models for 10 years — meaning all the equipment needed for them will be usable for at least 10 years without any retrofitting.

NOTES: Chief Chris Adams said while robberies (armed and unarmed) this year are up to about 15 or 16 he said the overall rates of retail theft are down by about 31 percent. He also said detectives and patrol officers continue to investigate a recent string of arson. . . . . . Sgt. Thomas Swett updated the commissioners on the Police Oriented Project involving retail theft and said the stores that have control over their own placement of goods have been very responsive to working with police. He said local chain retailers have little to no control over where they place their goods, cash registers, and displays. He also noted that police working cooperatively with Vista Foods over the past year has helped them reduce the incidents of shoplifting dramatically. He also said the number of domestic assaults and disturbances are up because management is more proactive about reporting suspicious behavior to police. He also said police officers are engaging in more community policing, which can be as simple as stopping by randomly for a visit or a coffee.