Friday, April 18, 2014
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BPD, MPRPD put unused cars to use

By David Tuma

 Publisher

 It is just one of those questions drivers ask themselves when traveling through Belton and Morgan’s Point Resort these days. Is there a police officer in that parked vehicle? The program was started in Belton by Belton Police Chief Gene Ellis by parking empty, unused police vehicles in certain parts of town, usually an area where there have been crimes or traffic accidents.

 

The results have been remarkable in several ways. “We started parking vehicles in trouble spots,” Ellis said. “Say if there has been a business that has had a break-in or using them to slow traffic down in a certain area. Where we have used them, we have seen crime and traffic accidents go down in those areas. The staff had some questions at first, but once they starting seeing the parked vehicles were working we had no problem getting them out on the street.”

For local residents, it is a guessing game for the speeders; sometimes there are officers in the vehicles. But there are statistics that the department has kept track of in areas where they have used the vehicles and crime and accidents have decreased. Some of the vehicles have cameras in them that stream back to the police station for those who may think an empty police car is nothing to worry about.

“We had seven mobile cameras working the July 4th Parade. We also use them near large retailers who have reported shoplifting. Officers also park their vehicles and walk around. If you assume the vehicle is empty and you are speeding, it may be your unlucky day. The vehicles aren’t being used so it puts them to work. Each officer in our department has his own area to cover. This is a way for us to utilize every resource we have. Using vehicles that would be parked at the station makes sense. It is all about improve the lives in Belton,” said Ellis.

MPR saw Belton’s success and decided to give it a try.

  “This idea has really worked in Belton and I took it from them,” said MPR Police Chief Fred Churchill. “Traffic enforcement goes up, crime goes down. We work hard to let criminals know to keep driving and go somewhere else. Businesses have let us use some of their parking space to park the vehicles. The program has been tremendous for us. Citizens tell us they like it but we did have a few come in and say they went to the window to ask directions and nobody was in the police vehicle. We use our spare vehicle to park. It helps us slow down traffic in certain areas of town and we try to keep them in the business district,” said Churchill.

With the construction on I-35, the BPD has also used the vehicles to slow down traffic heading into the construction areas. Churchill pointed out how much that helps improve the safety in that area of the interstate.