Police departments grapple with fuel costs

June 16, 2008 3:56:04 PM PDT
Local police departments are scrambling to figure out how to deal with growing fuel expenses. So far, only a small number of them have been moved to action. But that could change as the price of gas continues to climb. When Newtown Township Patrolman Bill Ebbecke answers a routine call or a business check he does something different these days when he arrives.

"Shut the car off, save gas... At 4-dollars a gallon you should be thinking that way," said Ofc. Ebbecke. Many departments are.

A car idling for 20 minutes wastes gas and dollars. Reportedly, departments in Alabama and Georgia have actually cut back on the use of cruisers to patrol. No one we spoke with believes that is happening yet locally. But departments like Upper Darby are brainstorming all kinds of options - from using more motorcycles to dialing back the miles driven on a given shift.

Upper Darby Superintendent Michael Chitwood says, "We could take vehicle patrolling sector 8, 10, 12 hours we may only do an hour at time, and strategically park it at different locations. So, there's a lot that could happen."

Philadelphia has a huge police fleet. It is reaping the benefits of a decision made 4 years ago to phase out fuel hungry V-8 fords replacing them with 6-cylinder Chevrolets.

In a years time the six cylinder cars used 200,000 gallons less gasoline, saving the city $450-thousand. Philadelphia Fleet Manager James Muller says the new police commissioner is looking at more ways to cut fuel consumption.

"He is looking for more hybrids. Possibly hybrid vehicles, some electric vehicles, segways, two-man patrol cars," said Muller.

Big or small, all departments facing the same sort of problems.