Gas prices hitting police department budgets

By Nora Gathings
WSBT-TV Reporter
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND, Ind. —  Everyone is feeling the pinch of prices at the pump, even local police departments.

The South Bend Police Department is asking their officers to avoid using their car for personal reasons.

But South Bend Police say many of their officers constantly remain on call and have to have their cars with them at all times. So, police say some officers are using their own money to fill help the tanks.

Patrolling South Bend is city driving — it's a lot of stop and go, which burns a lot of gas. South Bend Police say the constant refueling is expensive.

“Some municipalities, there's horror stories about parking squad cars and curtailing patrol functions, and that is not occurring in South Bend,” said South Bend Police Capt. Phil Trent. “We are asking our officers via the F.O.P. to double their efforts in curtailing driving.”

And many are paying for their own gas for personal use.

At today's prices, if each patrol car is filled once a week, that's more than $13,000. Other departments don't have as many cars, but say they are still worried.

“I think we're definitely concerned. But as of right now, we are on target as far as our spending goes. But it's something we are still thinking about, going over, and monitoring,” said St. Joseph County Police spokeswoman Jaimee Thirion.

Last year, St. Joseph County Police budgeted $259,000 for gas. This year, they planned ahead, anticipating higher prices and budgeted $400,000, but they're still looking for other ways to decrease costs.

“We continue to look at fuel-efficient studies and ways to be more fuel efficient, whether it is looking at the hybrid vehicles or buying smaller vehicles,” Thirion added.

But if prices continue to soar, local departments say they may be forced to make program cuts.

I spoke to other local departments who are also encouraging officers with take-home vehicles to not use them for personal reasons.

So far, no local departments have had to park patrol cars or cut programs.

Copyright 2007 South Bend Tribune

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