Aging vehicles, technology affecting response times for Tucson police

Aging vehicles, technology affecting response times for Tucson police
(Source: Tucson News Now)
(Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Aging cars and outdated computers are affecting how patrol officers operate out in the field in Tucson.

Police said while they have strong safety measures in place to repair and maintain the cars, the aging fleet means more money going into maintenance, when it could be much more cost effective just to get a new vehicle.

In a full garage, the vehicle with the highest mileage was a police van that had more than 200,000 miles. Lt. Tim Gilder, the Administrative Resources section commander and IT deployer for the Tucson Police Department, said the van is still in use.

There are many cars with more than 100,000 miles logged. Gilder said in patrol specifically, they had 72 cars on the road that were at least 10 years or older.

Another concern was outdated computers and aging servers that were slowing down the programs officers used in their patrol cars. Sgt. Jobe Dickinson said while it did not happen too often, he had been out working the beat several times when the server crashed.

"There's a lot of crashing and re-booting," Dickson said. "It means dispatchers are then working off cards, handwriting stuff and then relaying that information out to officers in the field, who are also handwriting as well."

That could slow down officers as they try to work fast and get to the next emergency.

"One, you're trying to get to priority calls to make sure you don't miss anything, but two you can't do your paperwork," Dickson said. "So you make an arrest, all our stuff is paperless now, we have electronic printers, we have computerized ports, all that has to wait until the system is back up."

He added that it could put an officer behind two to three days.

Gilder added that safety is a priority, but there was not much the department could do, as they don't have the budget to replace the aging fleet.

They have put cars out of service, but in most cases they repair them and try to get them back out on the street.

"Obviously the budgetary constraints are our biggest constraints right now," Gilder said. "In policing, the cars aren't driven like a typical commuter car that would be driven on a daily basis. Police cars are driven at high speeds because they have to respond to emergency situations."

Gilder said since 2013, the department had been able to buy 59 new patrol cars through city and gr ant funding.

"In a perfect world what I'd like to see is us on a five-year replacement plan," Gilder said.

He said the five-year replacement plan went out the window in 2008, after the economy crashed. Now they replace cars when they got the funds.

The police department has about 900 cars in its fleet.

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