03/03/06 — Donated van will serve as mobile command center for city police

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Donated van will serve as mobile command center for city police

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on March 3, 2006 1:47 PM

When Goldsboro police officers go to a crime scene or to a disaster, now they can ride in style -- thanks to UniFirst Corp. of Goldsboro.

UniFirst donated a 7-year-old delivery van to the department in July 2004. With money forfeited from drug dealers, the department converted the van to a mobile command center and unveiled it this week.

Chief Tim Bell said the police would not have had the money in the budget to buy and equip a van.

Donated Van

News-Argus/Kaye Nesbit

Goldsboro police Chief Tim Bell, left, and Jim Oxenford, the general manager of UniFirst Corp. of Goldsboro, show a van the police will use as a mobile command center.

"It definitely shows good community support from UniFirst," he said.

Bell accepted the keys from Jim Oxenford, the general manager of the UniFirst plant at 800 S. John St.

Oxenford said the van was donated "because they had asked. Since we've been here for so many years, we wouldn't do it for anyone else outside of the county."

UniFirst, then Textilease, also donated a similar van in 2001 that the Wayne County Sheriff's Office is using for its Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT, team.

Oxenford said the demand is great for the vans, especially with rising prices.

"But the police hit us at the right time, and we let it go," he said. "It doesn't look now like it did. They've put a lot of money, sweat and effort into it."

Much of the conversion work, Bell said, was done by local businesses. He paid tribute to the city Maintenance Department and radio shop for their interior work.

"They really got interested in the project," Bell said. "It was almost like a city project -- to make it look as good as they could."

Bell said the van will be used in training exercises, but it also will be used by the emergency response team or at major crime scenes where police would be stationed for an extended time. It also could be used as mobile office where interviews could be conducted.

"It's nice, but it's not gaudy or fancy," Oxenford said after stepping inside.

"We can take it to schools for DARE programs or for crime prevention," said Capt. Jeff Stewart, who headed the conversion project.

"I'm very well pleased with the way it turned out," Bell said.