JAMES CITY, Va. -- James City Police know police cruisers can be intimidating, so in hopes of enticing the public to approach them, the department has taken on a monster project -- a monster truck, to be precise.
Retired from the James City County Fire Department, a 2006 Chevy crew cab was just the canvas the police department was looking for to transform into a colorful community outreach truck. Even with 180,000 miles on the odometer, the truck is suited for tooling around town and making appearances at local events.
The only catch is that no tax money can be used in its transformation from ordinary to outrageous. Senior Officer Todd Dill with James City County Police, who came up with the idea of an eye-catching community outreach vehicle about four years ago, said as a result the department is relying on donations to complete the task.
"I hope it will break the ice and have people come talk to us," he said. "There are still a lot of people afraid to talk to the police, and our hope is that this will make people feel less intimidated."
Buddy Stewart, fleet and equipment administrator for James City County, said the truck was a first responder vehicle that went to medical calls for the fire department. He said it probably got the most miles in the county.
Dill had asked him to be on the lookout for a vehicle that would be right for the project, according to Stewart. He said transferring county vehicles isn't unusual, but the use for this one is certainly unique.
"Absolutely, the first time that I'm aware of that one of the vehicles will be used like this," he said.
Recently retired Police Chief Emmett Harmon said he thought the idea of the truck was a good one. He believes it will get people's attention at community events and help police get information on a variety of topics to county citizens.
Dill said they plan to make the truck a billboard for James City Police, though it won't be badged exactly like cruisers and other department vehicles. He said it's also the first time the county has allowed advertising or sponsorship emblems on a county vehicle, noting that businesses that donate will be recognized through decals on the truck.
He said the plan for the truck is to add a lift kit, larger tires, colorful graphics and possibly make the exhaust rumble a little more. However, they can't start modifications until there's money to fund them.
The fundraising goal is $5,000, and the department has already received its first donation of $500, according to Dill.
"Local mechanics have volunteered to do the work, so the cost is just these items," he said, referring to the lift kit and other additions that will soup up the truck.
When the project is complete, Dill hopes the community outreach truck will make an impression when it rolls into the parking lot.
Harmon agreed, saying a truck like this with police logos on it isn't something people see every day. "It's a way to attract people to where we'll be sitting."
More -- To donate to the project, please contact Officer Todd Dill at 757-603-6025 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2014 - The Virginia Gazette, Williamsburg
McClatchy-Tribune News Service