WOONSOCKET — Using about $158,000 in drug forfeiture money, the Woonsocket Police Department has ordered seven new vehicles to replace some of the oldest cruisers and detective cars in its fleet. Capt. Kenneth Paulhus said five 2011 Ford Fusions were ordered for the detectives, while the patrol division will get two 2012 Crown Victorias.
These will be the first new vehicles acquired by the police department in at least six years, said Paulhus. Some of the oldest vehicles in the fleet, though well-maintained, have about 140,000 miles on them and they're waging a losing battle against body rot.
“Most of ours go back to the late 1990s or early 2000s,” said Paulhus. “Some of them, the frames are rotting out from underneath.”
To get a good price, the city piggybacked on the municipal bid for Plymouth County in Massachusetts, said Paulhus. The city paid about $93,000 for the lot of Fusions, and about $32,000 each for the Crown Victorias, which come with a special package of mechanical “upfitting” designed for the rigors of law enforcement.
The vendor is MHQ, a regional supplier of municipal vehicles and related equipment located in Marlborough, Mass.
Paulhus said the Fusions should be in the hands of the police department in a few weeks, the Crown Victorias in about two months.
Paulhus said the department hasn't decided exactly which vehicles, or how many in all, will be disposed of when the replacements arrive. But he said as many as three cars each from the patrol and detective divisions may be removed from service and auctioned off to the public as surplus equipment.
The department currently has about $128,000 in drug forfeiture money on hand and expects to take in a similar amount shortly, police officials say. The money comes from state and federal statutes that allow law enforcement agencies to take possession of cash, motor vehicles and other property used during the commission of a crime or acquired as a result of one.
The city's pot of drug forfeiture funds represents the fruit of an assortment of seizures which have occurred in the recent past, most of them related to narcotics investigations. In some cases, the seizures were the result of probes that were strictly local, while others were carried out by local police officers working as part of a regional team, including the federal Drug Enforcement Agency task force, according to Chief Thomas Carey.
Members of the DEA task force typically include officers from multiple law enforcement agencies, and when the unit makes a bust that results in a forfeiture, the proceeds are usually divvied up among the officers' home communities.
The only string attached to drug forfeiture money is that it must be used for law enforcement purposes outside the scope of the recipient's normal operating budget – a caveat that permits capital expenditures like vehicle acquisitions, building repairs and equipment purchases.
“We recently spent about $35,000 in drug forfeiture money to upgrade our radio system,” said Paulhus. “This is all stuff the city doesn't have to buy.”