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Businesses Purchase Cruisers for Columbus Officers

Businesses often weigh the advantages of renting versus buying vehicles. For six Columbus businesses and neighborhoods, it's a no-brainer to buy a police car for extended special-duty work.

Instead of "renting" Columbus police cruisers for special-duty officers, the businesses have found that it's cheaper to buy the vehicles and have exclusive use of them under contract with the city for three or four years.

They get shiny new cruisers striped and equipped like any other police vehicle. When the contract ends, the vehicles, which have done comparatively light duty, are added to the city's fleet.

"It's a win-win situation," said George Speaks, deputy director of the city's Public Safety Department.

Buying a new police-package vehicle equipped for special-duty work costs about $37,000, said Lt. Joe Echenrode of the Police Division's technical-services bureau.

"They have a nice car that's more reliable under warranty. That's part of the incentive for the company," Echenrode said.

"The city's not on the hook for any huge repair," he added, and in the 12-year history of the program, "we've never had a car totaled and never run into a high-cost repair."

Paying the $17 hourly rate to rent a police cruiser for the minimum three hours for 365 days would cost about $56,000.

The Discovery District and Capital Crossroads save about $50,000 a year by buying and sharing a vehicle, said Lisa Defendiefer, deputy director of both special-improvement districts.

"The property owners wanted to ensure they would have a special-duty officer working in the neighborhood 9:30 in the morning until 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday, in a marked cruiser with an officer to handle even the most minor incident," Defendiefer said. For that many hours, the annual cost of renting would be about $87,000.

The Discovery District includes the art museum and institutions such as Columbus State Community College, Franklin University, Columbus College of Art & Design and Capital University Law School.

The contract for the car does not include the officer's $43.50 hourly pay. The Discovery District and Capital Crossroads divide the $224,000 annual cost 75 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

"The property owners feel it's worth it," Defendiefer said of having the car and officer patrol their Downtown areas. Fifteen officers rotate on special duty in the districts.

Easton has bought two vehicles, New Life Properties has one each for its three apartment complexes, and Community Properties of Ohio has one to patrol its urban projects.

Hollywood Casino Columbus is the latest to buy a car for special duty. Its Police Interceptor, based on the Ford Explorer sport-utility model, was being equipped with lights, radio and other gear at Parr Public Safety Equipment near Plain City last week. Parr has the city contact to outfit the special-duty vehicles.

The casino's owner, Penn National Gaming, declined to comment for security reasons.

An Easton official said its patrol car and officer are part of a "multi-faceted approach to security that includes its own private security officers."

Even if a company has a security firm, Echenrode said, "they have a Columbus police officer on site who can handle any kind of emergency."

Copyright 2014 - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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