Provo doesn't require its police officers to live in the city, but it wants those who do to drive a patrol car home.
"There's a lot of benefits to having officers park a patrol car in front of their homes. It puts a police presence in a lot of neighborhoods," Provo Police Chief Swen Nielsen said.The City Council passed a resolution Tuesday night to spend about $350,000 to purchase 15 new patrol cars so every patrol officer living in Provo can take a car home. Of the city's 54 patrol officers, 26 live in Provo and 28 live outside Provo.
"This idea is very worthwhile, and I think it goes a long way to making residents feel more safe," Councilman Greg Hudnall said.
Most major cities have similar policies. Not only does it increase and spread out the police presence, but it puts officers on duty from the minute they leave their homes.
"Another benefit is that it gives us mobile stations and command posts all over the city when an emergency happens," Mayor George Stewart said.
The 15 new cars and two existing cars will provide a pool for those patrol officers living outside the city. The 26 cars remaining in the fleet will be assigned to patrol officers living in the city to take home. The officers will not be allowed to use the cars for personal use.
"We won't require them to take a car home if they don't want to, but we hope they will," Nielsen said.
The Police Department has pushed for this policy for almost 10 years.
Nielsen said he wanted to implement the policy several months ago, but the city recently hired 10 new patrol officers, and he wanted to see where those officers lived.
Stewart said the city is not considering adopting a policy similar to the one Salt Lake City adopted this week that would require all new officers to reside in the city. However, the city is discussing other incentives to entice officers to move to Provo.
"We'd love to have all of our officers living in the city," Stewart said.
The new car-per-person program might cost the city the $350,000 up front, but over a 16-year period it will save the city about $150,000. Cars in the patrol fleet will have to be replaced every four years because they will have higher mileage. The cars assigned to officers living in Provo will only be replaced every eight years.
Also, other cities have found that the maintenance expense for cars assigned to officers living in the city is about half of the upkeep expense for fleet cars.
"That is primarily attributed to less maintenance and the cars being taken care of better due to pride of ownership," Nielsen said.