Ads will help Athalia pay for new cruisers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 18, 2003

ATHALIA -- Small police departments often have a big problem: how to provide police protection

to their municipalities in spite of small budgets.

Athalia Police Chief Dan Williams said he has signed a contract with a North Carolina firm that will allow him to have three new cruisers, albeit, with a different appearance than what some may be accustomed to.

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"Right now the cruisers we have are third-owner," Williams said. "We spend all of our budget keeping them on the road."

Under the agreement with General Acquisitions, Inc., Athalia will get three new cruisers that will bear advertisements for various businesses on their bumpers, quarter panels hood and trunk.

The new, 2003-model equipped cruisers will be delivered one per year for three years. When each cruiser is three years old, the village will have the option of turning it in for a new model or turning it in and terminating the contract with General Acquisitions. Each cruiser will cost the village $1. The rest of the cost of the vehicle will be paid for by the businesses that choose to sponsor the car with their advertisements.

"They will help us find sponsors, but they prefer for us to get some sponsors on our own. They don't support advertisements for alcohol, tobacco, firearms or gaming," Williams said. "It would be a little hard to bust a guy for DUI with a Budweiser ad on the cruiser."

If Williams had to pay for three new cruisers out of his budget, it would cost $75,000 for the cars alone, plus $21,000 for equipment.

Such a purchase would nearly wipe out the roughly $120,000 he budgets every year for departmental expenditures.

The cruisers will be delivered once enough sponsors are found to pay for the cost of the car. Williams said he has already contacted local entities that do business with the village to ask for their support.

"It would tickle me to death to get into a cruiser and have it be dependable and not worry about it breaking down," Williams said.

Williams said he does not know of any other local law enforcement agency that is considering this idea.

The money that the Athalia Police Department will save on cruiser maintenance will be used to pay for community programs that Williams said he can't afford right now.

"The first year I became chief, we had a child safety seat day. Right now, we can't do things like this since our money is going to maintain vehicles."

What is General Acquisitions?

According to the company's Web site: "After the events of Sept. 11, some North Carolina businessmen were contacted by local law enforcement to develop a program for corporate sponsorship of sponsor-themed government vehicles. This was an attempt to get the vehicles the department needed; they only had one vehicle for every three Officers. At that time, George W. Bush, President of the United States of America, made a request to promote homeland security. It was obvious that the call had to be answered and, thereby, the program was formed.

"The program gives the government entities the vehicles and equipment they need to provide homeland security, protect and serve in their community without having to obtain government funding or raising taxes."