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South Carolina Deputies, Sheriff to Rent Their Patrol Cars


COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- With gas prices still much higher than county budgets anticipated, the Lexington County Sheriff's Office is taking the unusual step of renting its patrol cars to the deputies - and even the sheriff - who take the cars home at night.

It's the first time deputies have had to pay a fee for using the patrol cars since the gas crisis of the 1970s, Sheriff James Metts said.

The department also will replace its fleet of Crown Victorias with more fuel economical Chevrolet Impalas.

The rental fee on the cars will be for deputies who live in the county and who respond to crime scenes. They will pay $20 every two weeks to take the patrol cars home.

''People elect you, and the County Council expects you, to stay within the means, and that's what I like to do,'' Metts said. Overall, the sheriff's department hopes to save $183,700 this year.

''Never faced gas prices as high as they are now,'' Metts said. ''We've faced a shortage in the late 1970s like everybody else did, but we didn't face the price per gallon like it is now.''

Metts said the Impalas will get about 17 miles to the gallon, while the Crown Victorias they are replacing average about 12 miles to the gallon. He said the difference will save about $61,765 in gas costs.

Jeff Moore, executive director of the South Carolina Sheriff's Association, said some departments are considering giving employees a car allowance instead of a car.

''The gasoline issue is a real crisis,'' Moore said. ''Everybody is sort of experimenting, trying to figure out what to do and how to do it.''

The Richland County Sheriff's Department has used Impalas for years, spokesman Lt. Chris Cowan said.

Cowan said his agency got better gas mileage and lower maintenance costs with the Crown Victorias and assigns the Impalas to deputies who don't use them every day.

''We have to look at the big picture of gas mileage and wear and tear,'' Cowan said.

In Newberry County, Sheriff Lee Foster is looking at alternative fuels, such as compressed natural gas and ethanol-based fuels.

''Everything has positives and negatives,'' Foster said. ''You can make a vehicle run on propane or compressed natural gas, but you have to use a different type of mechanism to hold the fuel.''

The sheriffs, however, say they won't cut patrols to help with fuel costs.

Bob Keener, with the Lake Murray Southside Community Association, said fewer cars going home with deputies definitely means less law-enforcement visibility in his community.

But he said it's worth a try as long as the crime rate doesn't go up.

· Registered
115 Posts
K9Vinny said:
Does that mean they can use the cruiser for personal business while off duty? Maybe take the family to the beach?
Actually, in a lot of departments in the south, you can. You just need to carry your ID and firearm, and you can throw your clubs in the trunk and head to the golf course if you want.
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