05/12/06 — Gas price roller coaster not affecting patrols

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Gas price roller coaster not affecting patrols

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on May 12, 2006 1:52 PM

Wayne County law enforcement, emergency and fire officials are keeping a wary eye on the price of gas, but they are not cutting back on services, and for now they say it is pretty much business as usual.

Goldsboro police and the Wayne County Sheriff's Office have introduced some minor measures to reduce fuel consumption but have not reduced services, said Police Chief Tim Bell and Sheriff Carey Winders.

"We try to be as conscientious as we can with gas. When we answer calls, we cut vehicles off, if we can, to conserve fuel that way," Bell said.

Winders said he has asked detectives to ride together when they go to lunch or attend meetings and other functions.

But both Bell and Winders said they plan no reduction in patrols.

Goldsboro Fire Chief Bobby Greenfield said his department will not cut services. If prices soar above $3 a gallon, as they did after Hurricane Katrina, then he said his department would consider changes in how it responds to calls and how it trains.

First Sgt. Terry McLeod, who supervises the Wayne County district of the Highway Patrol, said he has received no directives from Raleigh to reduce patrols.

"We did cut back after Katrina and used more stationary patrols," McLeod said.

Bell pointed out that there times when patrol car engines cannot be shut off.

"If we go to a collision, we have to run the equipment and leave the vehicle running. We're trying to be as conscientious as we can to conserve gas, but we won't cut back on patrols," Bell said.

Winders said he had tried to place patrol deputies in certain areas of the county and have deputies in position to respond to calls without having to drive so far, but that has drawbacks, he said.

"But once you do that, it prevents proactive patrolling. We did get complaints about why a car was sitting still. That idea will probably be scrapped," Winders said.

"We'll continue to patrol the county," the sheriff added.

Greenfield said he stays in contact with the city's General Services Department to keep up with changes in gas prices but he said the price has been fairly reasonable as of late. The city buys gas in bulk in advance.

The price of gas "is not where it was during Katrina," he said. "If it does go up, we won't cut services, but we will alter how we respond to fire calls and do our training."

If gas prices rise again, Greenfield said the department would dispatch one engine company instead of a full complement of equipment, to answer a fire alarm until it can be determined that more units are needed. Currently, three engine and one ladder company answer alarms.

Burning excess fuel for training also would be limited, the fire chief said.

McLeod said a directive from Highway Patrol headquarters in Raleigh to cut back on fuel could be forthcoming but that he has heard of no such intentions.

Winders said his officers, like the public, can save gas by driving 55 mph, not 60 or 65, on the open road.

"That will save considerable gas," the sheriff said.

Winders also has asked his deputies to scout around for the cheapest gas in the county and tell others in his office where it can be found.

The last two cars that the Sheriff's Office bought for its detectives were mid-sized V-6 Chevrolet Impalas, which get better gas mileage than some previous models.

"We're hoping to cut back there," he said. "This is an important issue.".