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July 11, 2011
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Retired SWAT car turns crimefighter for Texas cops

The vehicle sits unmanned and shoots video 360 degrees to make people think twice about causing trouble

By PoliceOne Staff

WACO, Texas — A SWAT unit in Texas seemed destined to sit collecting dust – until its officers found it a new gig just a few months after it had been retired.

The vehicle sits unmanned and shoots video 360 degrees in troubled Waco neighborhoods to make people think twice about causing trouble.

The Waco Police Department had retired the old vehicle, which had been in service since the early 1990s, when a new, custom-built SWAT car arrived that was larger, safer, and more reliable, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The department equipped the old unit with video cameras about two months ago after Police Chief Brent Stroman read in a magazine about a police force that made a watch vehicle out of a retired civilian armored car, according to the article.

Volunteers of the Citizens on Patrol, a part of the department’s Community Outreach and Support Division, review the video footage, Sgt. Mark Mitzel said.

There’s not much excitement on tape if problem individuals take it seriously, Mitzel said, but it is believed the vehicle may have captured an attempted car burglary, which is still under investigation.

The unit mostly serves as a deterrant, Mitzel said. It sits at one scene for weeks at a time, silently patrolling the area.

"I guess some people might see it and decide we're just kidding them, that there's nothing inside. But anybody with mischief on his mind who would dare to try that out really needs to be in jail," he told The Houston Chronicle.

The vehicle retains its intimidating angled armor and peephole windows, though it is now clearly marked “Neighborhood Watch – Waco Police.”

New SWAT vehicles have less of a military surplus look and are built to meet the needs of civilian police, Mitzel told the newspaper.

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