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Sheriff's Office addresses vehicle use

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By John Barnhart

The Sheriff's Office is taking steps to reduce fuel expenses, according to Sheriff Mike Brown. Brown spoke at a Bedford County Board of Supervisor's work session, Monday evening.

Calls are up. Brown said that deputies responded to 17,099 calls in the first six months of the year. That's an increase of 1,272 over the same period in 2007. In spite of that, a vehicle use policy introduced at the end of June has reduced fuel usage by 316 gallons per month. Brown said that amounts to a savings of $13,000 per year on an annualized basis.

"We are striving to increase this amount," Brown told the supervisors.

The policy specifies:

? Park your police cruisers at high visibility locations for 10 minutes of each patrol hour.

? Take incident reports over the phone when it's not necessary to drive to the location.

? Turn off police cruisers, rather than idling. This has some exceptions. K-9 units need to keep their air conditioning running because of the dogs inside. There are also safety situations in which a cruiser needs to have its emergency lights on.

? Drive more conservatively, avoiding speeding and quick stops and starts.

? Keeping tires properly inflated.

? Don't use drive-through windows during meal breaks. Park and walk in. The Sheriff's Office notes that this also enhances emergency policing.

? Utilize more on-line training.

? Car pool to training sites.

? Utilize sub-stations. Brown said that there are six of these in the county and deputies can use these to write reports or make phone calls rather than returning to the office on Falling Creek road to do these tasks.

? Each employee assigned a vehicle is to reduce his vehicle mileage by 10 percent.

Brown said that all Sheriff's Office employees have been cautioned to avoid improper use of vehicles while off duty.

"We will work with any of you to curtail improper use of vehicles," Brown said.

Board Chairman Steve Arrington and District 3 Supervisor Roger Cheek noted that they have received citizen complaints about deputies using cruisers for personal off-duty purposes.

"I do have citizens complain to me," said Cheek, adding that the callers didn't know who was driving the cruiser or what the vehicle's number was.

"I have no proof of what they tell me," he said.

Brown noted that each vehicle has a number on the bumper. If a citizen sees something that makes him suspicious, he can call the Sheriff's office and give them this number. Or, they can call one of the supervisors. The number will allow the Sheriff's Office to investigate.

Brown said that employees assigned a vehicle may make a stop while on their way from home to work, or on their way back home. While on patrol, deputies are encouraged to stop in businesses and make contacts. They also often drive to training classes wearing civilian clothes.