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New Squad Cars Raise Wisc. Police Visibility

Department is ''getting back to basics''

By Aubrey Fleischer, The Fond du Lac Reporter (Wisc.)

Twelve squad cars with a new design will be phased in over the next three years. (Photo by Keith Vandervort, The Fond du Lac Reporter)

A new look for its police cars is one way the Fond du Lac Police Department is living up to its motto of "making Fond du Lac a safe place to live, learn, work and play."

Local residents may have already begun to see the first of several noticeably different, sleek, black and white Crown Victorias patrolling the city''s streets and neighborhoods this week. Chief Tony Barthuly said the new vehicles are part of a "getting back to basics" effort that will make the Police Department more visible in the community.

"We want to be visible in all parts of the community," Barthuly said. "Now, when people look out their window, they''ll definitely know (that) there''s a squad car going by."

Sgt. Mike Huber said, "We''re trying to have more of a presence when we''re out."

The new design features a black front- and rear-end, a white mid-section and new decals. Barthuly said the sirens on the new vehicles are louder and are mounted in the front of the vehicle rather than on the top, making it easier for people to hear and safer and quieter for the officers inside the vehicle.

Officer Gary Voigt, who is driving the first new squad car, said residents are beginning to take notice of the new vehicle style.

"I''m picking up more looks as I''m driving through town," Voigt said. "I think the black and white scheme sets itself apart more from other vehicles on the road."

Voigt said that the black and white color scheme has been the traditional police look for decades and often reminds people of a time when they knew who the community''s officers were. He said although it''s not like that anymore, he thinks the new vehicles will help the department be more in touch with the public.

Huber said the Police Department had similar black and white vehicles during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Two other Wisconsin police departments, Green Bay and Sheboygan, also currently have black and white patrol vehicles, Voigt said.

Two of the vehicles will be completed by the end of this week, and two more will be patrolling the city by the end of the year. Eight more are expected to be complete within the next three years, bringing the total fleet of vehicles to 12.

Barthuly said the new design is less expensive than the old one, because it has fewer graphics. He said the paint for each new vehicle is about $300 more but that the fewer graphics offsets the cost increase.

The Police Department began 2004 with its "Making Fond du Lac a safe place to live, learn, work and play" mission statement, and Barthuly said the new vehicles, along with other recent changes, help officers live up to that mission.

"We want to get officers out in the community and see if we can stop some of these quality of life crimes like vandalism, littering, graffiti and noise," Barthuly said.

In addition to the new vehicles, officers are now patrolling the downtown area on foot to increase their visibility.

"Visibility helps solve a lot of the problems downtown," Barthuly said.

The Police Department will also be posting signs in local taverns advising citizens that arrests will be made if individuals are involved in quality of life crimes.

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