YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Police cars see hard duty and in departments like Youngstown and Mahoning County, the cruisers are in use around the clock.
That means departments have to be aggressive on preventative maintenance to make sure the cars stay roadworthy. 27 Investigates reporter Amanda Smith took a closer look at some of the police cars on the road in Mahoning County.
One of the vehicles the Youngstown Police Department uses to patrol the city has delineated paint and a rusted through fender, which are just some of the issues maintenance workers have to keep an eye on to keep officers safe.
Many of the cars residents see out on patrol have upwards of 150,000 miles.
“The mechanics do a safety inspection of the vehicle. And what they are looking at is tire wear, brake condition, suspension components, the general overall operation of the vehicle. If they come across things that concern them, they replace parts, or if the vehicle’s frame is rusted, we take those vehicles out of service,” said Youngstown Police Capt. Joe Fergus.
Mileage is high on cars all across the area. At the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department, cars have been known to break down with deputies, and prisoners, inside them. Of the 34 cars that the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office possesses, 14 have at least 170,000 miles on them.
One cruiser had a Youngstown police detective in it when it spontaneously caught fire.
“I have a handful of cars that are well over 200,000 miles right now. Not only do we patrol and have detectives, but we also transport multiple inmates to court every day,” said Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department Major Jeff Allen.
One car that came in for inspection had deteriorating ball joints, so in addition to brakes, mechanics also installed new swing arms to be safe.
“You get into higher mile cars, you are starting to pay for repairs,” Allen said.
“Mileages can be addressed with replacement parts and good maintenance. But once you are dealing with rust, it becomes a safety issue,” Fergus said.
The Youngstown Police Department recently bought nine used cars from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, all with at least 115,000 miles and at an average price of $3,000. The secondary-use cars will free up newer cars for patrol.
“It’s always a balance, and we do the best we can with the budget that we have,” Fergus said.
Forty cars in Youngstown have been salvaged, with police saying they’re just too bad to drive safely.