The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office presented two new police cruisers to the public this afternoon.
The two new Dodge Charger cruisers were purchased with a $143,200 grant, a state grant given to counties with high roadway fatality rates. In November the county received a state grant called HEAT (Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Driving). Sheriff Donnie Craig said the county was awarded the grant due to its high accident fatality and injury rate. Pickens County Adult Detention Center and Court Services Commander Captain Jeff Hall cited some of the primary causes of fatalities on the roadways are excessive speed and alcohol. Four out of the seven fatal car accidents in Pickens County are alcohol related, he said.
Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Director Harris Blackwood made an appearance at the event, lauding the HEAT Program and offering additional information to the public. Blackwood called the grant a three-year commitment. After this time, he said, the county can apply again for the grant. Hall further explained that each year the amount of the grant will decrease. The reason for this, he said, is that the equipment (the cruisers, etc) has already been purchased, so the HEAT Grant in the years following would simply cover one of the officer’s salaries, if the grant is received. Given the initial receipt of the grant, Hall said there would be no reason that the county would not receive it following the three year period, with the exception of statewide financial constraints. Required by the grant, Hall said the county is responsible for submitting status and financial reports to the state.
During a conversation with FYN, Mr. Blackwood emphasized the efficacy of the HEAT Program, saying the sheer presence of the cruisers will cause motorists to slow down. According to data given at the presentation, the primary causes of automobile accident fatalities are speed and alcohol. Blackwood said counties in the HEAT Program typically see a decline in highway accidents within a year.
The cars arrived Monday, but the wireless systems for the camera feature were installed yesterday, according to Captain Hall. Hall also said the cruisers were already on the road yesterday. The grant pays for the two cruisers, costing approximately $33,000 each, fully outfitted, in addition to a salary for one of the officer’s driving one of the cruisers.
Inside the Sheriff’s Office, a presentation was given, showing video from the camera on one of the new cruisers. In addition to clear video, the camera system indicates when the officer uses his brakes, has the lights on, and displays GPS coordinates. When the cruiser pulls into the parking lot of the Sheriff’s Office, the video is downloaded via a wireless system to the server inside the building. The video is intended for evidential purposes and can be forwarded to the courts for certain cases. The camera system is called the Watch Guard System.
In a conversation with FYN, Captain Hall said the HEAT Program is about more than simply adding two more cruisers to the fleet; it’s about educating the public on highway safety by changing the mind-set of motorists to constantly keep safety in mind. Hall said the Sheriff’s Office intends to take the message of highway safety to the community, saying the Office is in the process of scheduling a series of events that address highway safety, including events geared toward Driver’s Education students.