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More fallout from the Bush Economy: cops walking the beat to save on gas

The Bush Administration’s economic reverse Midas touch hits law enforcement agencies around the country, as budget-busting fuel costs have police officers out of their cruisers and walking the beat. While face time with residents can be a good thing, without additional officers to cover the entire beat effectively, there’s going to be a serious impact on response time to emergencies. Thanks, Dear Leader. USA Today:

• The Georgia Department of Public Safety is encouraging its 770 state troopers to reduce patrol time. Mileage reductions have ranged from 15% to 25% per month since January, Senior Trooper Larry Schnall says. In place of some patrols, troopers are conducting more radar surveillance or manning stationary checkpoints.

• In Fairfield County, Ohio, Sheriff Dave Phalen has dispatched a deputy in a golf cart to patrol one local community. Another golf cart is on the way, and he has ordered all deputies to shut down their patrol cars for 15 minutes every hour to walk the beat.

• In Anne Arundel County, Md., the sheriff’s department has recalled 13 of the agency’s 38 cruisers designated as take-home patrol vehicles. Officers assigned to those cars now must drive from their homes to headquarters to pick them up, Maj. Rick Tabor says.

…The Houston Police Department is spending millions of dollars to cover additional fuel costs. It has budgeted $8.6 million for fuel through the current fiscal year, which ends this month. Next year, those costs are expected to top $11 million, says Chief Harold Hurtt.

To control costs, Hurtt says 2% of the department’s unmarked fleet – about 50 cars – is being converted to hybrid vehicles. The chief also is considering expanding foot and bicycle patrols in the city – strategies that come with different costs. “When you put people on foot, they can only cover small areas, and the response time is only as fast as they can run,” Hurtt says.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding