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CCSO receives funds for new car

As with most rural counties, it's a task for the Crenshaw County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) to travel the long distances in its coverage area.

Not only do the miles rack up on the department's cars, but also over half of the county's roads are unpaved, which adds to the wear and tear of the vehicles.

"Some of the 1999 model cars we've got have 150,000 to 175,000 miles on them and they're going down hill," Sheriff Charles West said. "It's getting to where we're spending more money than is feasible to keep them running. There's approximately 735 square miles in the county. A lot of the roads we travel are dirt roads. It takes a toll on the vehicles. We're doing the best we can and trying to keep our vehicles in good shape so we can cut down on maintenance costs."

According to a report conducted by the Association of County Commissioners of Alabama in 2002-03, Crenshaw County is comprised of 268 miles of paved roads and 467 miles of unpaved roads.

To assist the CCSO purchase a much-needed new patrol car, Gov. Bob Riley recently awarded a $15,000 grant to the county.

"Law enforcement officers need safe, reliable vehicles to adequately protect and serve their communities," Riley said. "I support the efforts of the Crenshaw County officials to improve the protection of residents."

The department's new deputy, who will be named later this month, will use the new car for patrol purposes in hopes of increasing public safety.

"We expect to hire a new deputy in a couple of weeks," West said. "He'll be working the roads where we have complaints of high speeding and the dirt roads where people are riding the ditches with four-wheel drive pickups and four-wheelers doing doughnuts and tearing up the roads. If we catch them, they will be charged with reckless driving, which is about a $400 fine."

The new vehicle will replace an older, high-mileage patrol unit that has become less reliable. West said it will reduce downtime spent seeking repairs and help officers maintain 24-hour patrols resulting in a greater level of law enforcement service.

"We appreciate it, it feels great," West said. "The last three cars we've purchased, we purchased on the lease purchase-type deal with the bank and we'll finish paying them off in the next year. This just helps us pay for them. I would love it if we could buy at least on vehicle a year to keep them rotated. If you take a car to the shop for anything, you're talking about a couple hundred bucks."

Local matching funds of at least $1,666 have been committed to the purchase of the vehicle.

Riley awarded the grant from funds made available to the state through a program of the U.S. Department of Justice. He has designated the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) to administer the grant.

ADECA Director John Harrison recently notified Crenshaw County Commission Chairman Ronnie Blackmon that the grant had been approved.