By Alex Lippa
---- — The days of the traditional police cruiser could be in the rearview mirror.
Londonderry police just purchased a fleet of 16 sport utility vehicles and other departments may follow suit.
The change comes after the Ford Crown Victoria halted production in 2012, forcing many police departments to look for alternatives.
“This vehicle was the most attractive that we looked at,” Londonderry police Chief Bill Hart said.
Londonderry leased the 16-vehicle fleet of specially made Ford Interceptors to replace 21 vehicles. Hart said the ability to use the SUVs year-round is why the Interceptors stood out to him.
“These are far more utilitarian in the the New England climate,” he said. “During heavy winter events, these have four-wheel drive, which gives us the ability to use our fleet in all weather circumstances.”
The town will pay $106,000 for the SUVs in a first year of a three-year lease. The cost is marginally greater than the sedans the department was looking at, but Hart said they would save money in the long term because they would be buying fewer vehicles.
At least one other department will be looking at how Londonderry’s fleet fares. Derry police are also looking at purchasing the Interceptors in the future.
“We are watching that closely to see how they are setting them up,” Garone said. “We will be looking and learning from those departments around us.”
Pelham police Lt. Gary Fisher said his department will be in the market for new police vehicles when their three-year lease expires in 2014, and said the Interceptors would definitely be an option.
“They may be an advantage over the Chevrolet Impalas we have now,” Fisher said. “But we just don’t know right now. These Interceptors weren’t available when we bought our last fleet.”
Salem police don’t have any SUVs that they use for front-line patrol. When they do look for new vehicles, there are several factors to be considered.
“Most importantly is the safety of vehicle,” Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten said. “You need to look at how much room is inside for personnel. Cost is always a huge issue, too.”
The SUVs might not be the preferred option for every department. Hampstead police Lt. John Frazier said his department has one SUV, which is used by a supervisor and rotates around patrol officers during the winter.
“Just from talking to our officers, they prefer the sedans,” Frazier said.
He said the town uses Dodge Chargers, which handle well in the snow. The town tries to replace one cruiser a year and buys it outright. The cruisers are generally used for six years, he said.
For Hart, interior space and gas mileage stood out to him with the Interceptors.
“The sedans now are smaller than the Crown Victoria,” Hart said. “This has a lot more room and the gas mileage is about equal.”