We’ve all seen police cars at homes, apartments and other residences where police men and women live.  Apartment complexes give police a discount on rent just to have the presence of a patrol car available as a deterrent to crime.  For years Chattanooga, TN police officers have been able to take their cars home at the end of their shift.  As of this month, that privilege has changed.  While they can still take their patrol cars home, the department has decided they will have to pay $0.20 per mile back and forth to work, to be deducted from their paychecks each month.  The majority of officers have declined this and have chosen to park their patrol cars in town and drive their personal vehicles home.

It is a move that has been attempted many times over the years but never came to be until this month.  Supporters of the decision state that this will save the city money as gas prices continue to rise more and more.  Naysayers  claim the move will reduce response times and crime would increase due to the loss of visibility.  They say that eliminating or reducing the presence of police vehicles in the neighborhoods would slow down response times in critical situations such as a child kidnapping whose safety is dependent on a quick and immediate response over a wide area.  Other situations that would require a quick response time include natural disasters, shooting, bomb threat or hostage situation.

Police have a steady 24 hour force on duty at any one time, but these emergencies require calling in a number of extra officers who are off duty.  Having to drive to a central garage to pick up their patrol car would delay that reaction time.  It is also claimed that there is less ware and tear on a vehicle that is taken home due to better maintenance from the officers.  It is claimed that more gas will be wasted requiring the officers to drive to a central garage instead of directly home after their shift.

I am sure that there are officers out there who abuse the privilege and use their patrol cars for non-police errands, but I believe that number is low.  Allowing the police to take their patrol cars home enables them to be ready at a moments notice when they are needed.  Not to mention that parking in downtown Chattanooga is at a premium and having patrol cars as well as officers’ personal cars competing for the spaces will only increase the problem.  Tim Gobble, a previous sheriff in the community wrote a rather interesting article on why the take home policy should be left as is.

What are your thoughts?  Do local police officers where you live take their patrol cars home?  Do you feel it acts as a deterrent to crime because they do?