Roundup: The impact of high gas prices on police

Here’s a look at how the historically high prices have changed law enforcement operations


By Police1 Staff

Across America, record-setting gas prices are putting a strain on daily life. For law enforcement agencies – car-dependent and already working with strained budgets – it didn’t take long to feel the impact.

Here’s a look at how the historically high prices have changed law enforcement operations. For tips on how to navigate the pain at the pump, check out Lexipol Editorial Director Greg Friese’s take on the topic.

HOW AGENCIES ARE DEALING WITH THE STRAIN

Many police departments are changing the way they operate to balance the high price of fuel with fulfilling law enforcement duties.

In Fort Pierce, Florida, detectives and community service officers are trading in their Crown Vics for more fuel-efficient Ford Fusion and Ford Escapes, K-9 officers are transitioning to hybrids and patrol cops are hitting the beat in Segways. 

"We are funded by our community and we want to make sure our community knows we're being responsible in the utilization of those funds," Ft. Pierce Lt. Jason Braun told ABC 12.

Police in Marietta, Ohio are considering instituting a foot patrol for the downtown area and relying more on bike officers. The Ashland Police Department in Virginia is taking a similar path, increasing foot and bike patrols where they can while maintaining vehicle use for emergencies and high-priority calls.

"Although the Ashland Police Department will continue to respond to emergency and non-emergency calls for service in an expeditious way, between calls for service, officers will conduct stationary observation in key areas of town to ensure traffic safety, crime deterrence, and their ability to respond at a moment’s notice anywhere in town," Chief Doug Goodman said in a press release.

Some departments are renewing their focus on fuel efficiency best practices, such as tire pressure and other routine maintenance.

In some cities, high fuel cost means potential cuts in other areas. The Shelby County Sheriff’s Department in Alabama is mulling cutting some specialty courses from the training budget to make up for the cost in fuel.

Of course, those with long memories will know this isn’t the first time gas prices have gone through the roof. Summer 2008 saw a dramatic rise that also called for adjustments. Back then, police in California’s capital of Sacramento hit pause on over a third of their squad cars and rode in pairs in an attempt to reduce fuel consumption. A 2013 report by The Urban Institute suggested some best practices to combat rising costs or spikes in the price of gas, including:

  • Switching to more fuel-efficient vehicles like hybrids.
  • Implementing fuel-saving best practices into fleet management (reducing unnecessary accelerations, ensuring proper tire pressure, using in-vehicle monitors to identify and address fuel use inefficiencies).
  • Stricter rules for take-home vehicles.

IMPACT ON CRIME

Police departments are seeing crime tied to the gas price spike in their jurisdictions. The Everett Police Department in Washington reported incidents of thieves drilling holes into gas tanks to steal fuel. Similar crimes have been reported all across the US in states like Missouri, Pennsylvania and Georgia. In Houston, thieves stole 1,000 gallons of fuel from a Houston gas station over three days. 

Even law enforcement has been targeted. In Sacramento County, probation officers reported that thieves targeted their county vehicles that were parked in a secured lot.
 

"This is a sign of the times you know," AAA's Doug Shupe told Fox 11 LA. "It's thieves looking for ways that they can make money by stealing what is becoming an increasingly more expensive and valuable commodity, gasoline."

KEEPING THE PUBLIC INFORMED

As the public continues to grapple with the stress of the crisis, police agencies are taking the opportunity for community outreach, with many sharing best practices for combating potential gasoline theft.

 

Others, like the West Monroe Police in Louisiana, are sharing cost-saving tips to frustrated drivers.

It’s impossible to predict how long this current fuel crisis will go on, but one thing is certain: it won’t be the last one. Police agencies must take steps to reduce their fuel dependency now and for the future. How is your agency responding? What are your plans to tackle this issue for the long term and be better prepared to weather rising gas costs? Take our poll and share your thoughts with us at editor@police1.com. Don’t forget to read our tips for reducing fuel use, and for a look at a more permanent solution, listen to our Policing Matters podcast about how to stand up an electric fleet.

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