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Police Debate Use of Fleet Cars in Hawaii

January 18, 2006

HILO, Hawaii — Hawaii county officials are once again considering moving its Big Island police officers out of their privately owned cars with the blue lights mounted on top, and into county-owned, marked police cruisers in hopes that it may be cheaper, according to the Honolulu Advertiser. Neighboring islands, such as Kauai, Maui and Oahu have either shifted over to county-owned police vehicles or use a mix of private vehicles and county-owned police cars in the last few years, however, the Big Island has just a handful of police vehicles that are used to haul prisoners.Instead, the Big Island Police Department pays about $4.7 million a year to its officers to compensate them for using their own cars for patrol and other police duty.Alan Pratt, president of West Hawaii CrimeStoppers prepared a study in 2003 that said marked cars would be cheaper for the county, and that he believes they would also deter crime. Big Island police have studied the possibility of switching to marked patrol cars at least four times in the last 30 years.However, a county working group set up to plan a conversion to county-owned marked vehicles concluded that a county-owned fleet would be more expensive because it would cost the county about $27.5 million over five years, or about $3.87 million more than the county would pay over the same period if it continues with the subsidized vehicle program. Once the police completely convert to a county-owned fleet, the county will pay about $130,000 more per year to keep the county fleet operating than it costs to subsidize the police officers' private vehicles, the working group report concluded. Those projections don't include more than $100,000 a year for staff to administer the fleet, or the cost of maintenance facilities in Hilo, Kona and Waimea.
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