Crime does pay: Seized cash buys cars for drug officers
By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor
Nov 13, 2007 - Sulphur Springs Police Department’s drug interdiction officers are reaping the rewards of their hard work — the two officers are riding around in 2007 Dodge Chargers purchased with forfeited funds they helped secure as a result of interstate traffic stops.
�With the cars and equipment you�re easily looking at $60,000 altogether,� said SSPD Chief Jim Bayuk. � They�re in the same ball park as the [Ford Crown Victorias]. We�re very pleased with how they turned out.�
The cars were purchased with money from the department’s asset forfeiture fund, which the chief said is “extremely important to this agency,” as it provides funding for equipment, and in this case specially equipped vehicles, that the department otherwise would not be able to afford.
�Assistant District Attorney Samantha Crouch has been a blessing to this police department,� Bayuk said. "She is very diligent in getting the seizures to go through and forfeited to us. It buys an enormous amount of equipment for this department."
Bayuk said that when officers make traffic stops that result in locating and seizing of large sums of cash, the money is put into a special fund. Paperwork is then filed through the district attorney’s office to try to have the money forfeited to law enforcement agencies. (State law allows for the forfeiture of properties that are the proceeds of felony crimes.)
When the funds are forfeited, the district attorney’s office receive 25 percent of the amount with the remaining 75 percent going back to law enforcement.
�It was time for Lt. Buddy Williams and Sgt. Jason Ricketson to get new vehicles,� Bayuk said. �They said they�d like to try the Chargers. Since they bring the money in, I try to listen to their ideas and see if we can try to accommodate what they want.�
The Chargers are black with mainly gold lettering and gold and red graphics, thanks to Bob and Sheila Swatsell of Sky Is the Limit, who designed the graphics.
Although they come with most of the same features as other Chargers, the police cars are a bit different. They have bigger alternators, better brakes and longer lasting motors. These also are equipped with mobile repeaters, kennel insets, special automatic doors and a “hot dog” system.
The mobile repeaters, Williams explained, will help with better radio communication.
�If the officer is way out and it�s hard to communicate, he takes the hand-to-mobile, and it sends a signal like they�re sitting in their car talking on the radio,� Williams said.
The bail out door is remotely accessed so that if an officer needs the dog to assist with criminal apprehension, the officer can press a button which automatically opens to let the dog out. The canines, Barry and Atos, know it’s time to “get down to business” when the remote button opens their door, police say. They know they’ll be either stopping someone who is fighting their handler or otherwise helping apprehend a criminal, Ricketson and Williams explained.
The Dodge also has specially made kennel inserts to house the dogs while the officers are patrolling the interstate. The hot dog system is special equipment which alerts the canine handlera via pagers if the car overheats. The system automatically rolls down the car windows to protect the dog from becoming overheated.
As for the Chevrolet Tahoes the interdiction officers were driving, they’ll continue to be used by city law enforcement to replace aging vehicles.
�When Lt. Ron Plaxco and Sgt. Harold McClure were brought back over [to the police department] from the [Tactictal Narcotics Team drug) task force, they brought back with them task force vehicles� Bayuk said. "[The Tahoes] are getting up in miles and needing repairs. It was time for Buddy and Jason to get new vehicles, so the Tahoes will be handed down,