Douglas County Sheriff's Office patrol cars just got sleeker - and a bit cheaper.
Sheriff David Weaver unveiled the latest addition to the department's list of crime-fighting equipment during the Highlands Ranch Community Association's recreational advisory committee meeting July 19.
The black Dodge Charger squad cars have the usual DCSO markings with the exception of white paint. A decision to leave the cars darker will actually save the sheriff's office $128,000 over four years, Weaver said.
The DCSO evaluated cost-saving measures and one area with great potential was the patrol car's paint and graphic scheme. The savings from leaving the vehicles dark is about $1,200 per car and the DCSO orders about 10-12 marked patrol cars per year.
In recent years, there has been an increase in cosmetic maintenance because the white paint has a tendency to chip off. And, as undersheriff Tony Spurlock points out, there have been more crashes and fender benders with fleeing criminals.
"People run into us and we run into people," he said. "It's more expensive to get them fixed if you have two different colors."
In addition to the immediate cost-savings of leaving the paint off, solid-colored cars are worth more at resale. Residents will have to get used to the new vehicles, which are not likely to give deputies any advantages in catching speeders.
"They're very high-profile," Spurlock said, adding unmarked patrol cars are used for better disguise. "We want people to see them and know we have a presence."
The vehicles will be based out of the department's new substation at Highlands Ranch Parkway and Ridgeline Boulevard. “Serving Highlands Ranch” will be written on the side panels.
Officials are planning a phased introduction; existing cars will not be re-painted. A batch of Chevrolet Caprices and Ford Crown Victorias were retired with the recent purchase of 12 cars. The DCSO gets roughly 100,000 miles out of each squad car. Old police vehicles are typically sold to taxi cab companies, Weaver said.
The new 2011 cars will be put into service as soon as equipment is installed and within four years, all of the patrol cars will display the modern look. Panasonic Toughbooks will be installed in the new squad cars, as will new, longer-lasting LED flashers and a Motorola APX 7500 multiband radio unit. An announcement from the sheriff's office said the reflective graphics make the car easy to spot during the day or night.
John Newsome, a Highlands Ranch for 10 years, said he is glad that the sheriff's office is publicizing the new vehicles so the public does not get confused. He also admitted that he occasionally drives over the speed limit and said he will now know what type of vehicle to watch out for.
"Police vehicle packages" give the cars improved suspension, but the engine and transmission are stock, meaning the deputies will not have a speed advantage over a normal Dodge Charger. The sheriff's office could choose to have a different type of vehicle, but the Dodges are part of a state bid, making them less expensive.
"The most significant benefit was fiscal," Spurlock said.