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January 28. 2014 9:19PM

Nashua police eyeing switch to sport utility vehicles

NASHUA — The popular Ford Crown Victoria police vehicles that have been patrolling city streets for more than 15 years will soon become a thing of the past, and a new fleet of sport utility vehicles is being recommended.

On Tuesday, Police Chief John Seusing told the Board of Aldermen that his department is being forced to find an alternative police vehicle since the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors are no longer in production.“Those days are over for us,” Seusing said of the Crown Victorias.

Members of the department have been testing four different police vehicles to consider as a replacement, including the Ford Police Interceptor Utility, Ford Police Interceptor Sedan, Dodge Charger and Chevy Caprice.

According to Seusing, the Ford police utility vehicle is the most ideal vehicle for his force.

At a cost of about $34,460 each, which includes a police equipment package, Seusing admits that the utility vehicles are between $3,500 to $3,900 more than the other options.

However, he believes the extra benefits of the utility vehicle are worth the additional cost. Specifically, he said the utility vehicle has larger trunk space for equipment, additional room for prisoners and is all-wheel drive.

“Many other agencies are starting to go with these utility vehicles,” he said, noting the Londonderry Police Department recently changed its fleet to SUVs, and the Massachusetts State Police are in the process of converting their fleet as well.

Other benefits include all-wheel drive, rear cameras and rear sensors.

The current police cruisers being used by the department are not all-wheel drive, but instead use snow tires during the winter months. This can limit response times during bad winter weather, according to Seusing.

He also believes that rear sensors in the police vehicles will be incredibly beneficial, as about 40 percent of the department’s cruiser accidents are the fault of officers as they are backing up.

The utility vehicle was chosen as the department’s top pick because of its handling, performance, visibility, accessibility, safety features and reliability, said the chief. With 4,500 arrests made each year in the city, Seusing said it is essential to have a police vehicle that is cooperative, low to the ground, stable and pursuit-rated.

“It is critically important,” he said of the police vehicles. The utility vehicles will be purchased in phases, with nine police vehicles on the upcoming finance agenda, said Seusing.

The purchases will need to be approved by the aldermanic Finance Committee for final authorization.

Alderman-at-Large Diane Sheehan said she has been researching the costs of the Ford Police Interceptor Utility vehicles, and she believes that other departments have been able to purchase the SUVs at lower prices.

“There is a significant cost difference,” she said of the estimated price compared to others she was able to find online.

“I think we can all agree that if we can get them for less, we would all be happy,” agreed Mayor Donnalee Lozeau.

khoughton@newstote.com


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