BERLIN — Three patrol cars were involved in crashes in January, including one totaled on Jan. 7 when a driver failed to stop at a blockade where officers were directing traffic on the Berlin Turnpike.
A second car damaged in the same incident is back on the road.
A third police vehicle was damaged on Jan. 19 when a 25-year-old suspect reportedly rammed the vehicle on the Berlin Turnpike after fleeing Meriden police.
“It's never good when we’re down cars,” Deputy Police Chief Chris Ciuci said.
No Berlin officers were injured in any of the incidents.
When there’s more officers on a shift than patrol cars, officers are doubled up in one vehicle, which reduces the need for backup on some calls but also means less patrol coverage.
The town garage does a great job keeping police vehicles maintained and putting them back on the road quickly, Ciuci said, but a lack of funding for new cruisers has been a problem in past budgets.
“...we have an aging fleet, so when it rains it pours …,” Ciuci said.
In the current budget, the department received two specialized canine vehicles.
Two additional patrol vehicles were funded using money transferred from another account. One has yet to arrive.
Police are requesting five vehicles in the town’s capital plan. One has already been cut.
During its Feb. 4 meeting, the Town Council approved $18,649 to purchase a vehicle to replace the cruiser that was totaled on Jan. 7.
The town also received a $15,783 insurance payout.
“I believe the department needs additional vehicles to work with...we are behind on replacing vehicles,” said Fleet Manager Jim Simons.
He believes police vehicles should be cycled out when the warranty ends after three years because the cost to maintain them begins to escalate.
The vehicles are then used by other municipal departments, Simons said.
“We try to replace police cruisers because...they're emergency vehicles that need to be in best shape,” he said. “ … There’s some of those vehicles that go 16 hours without being turned off.”