Q&A/Town pursues racy idea to fund police vehicles
Police cars racing to respond to emergencies in Mooresville, N.C., soon may resemble the cars featured in the town’s most popular sport, NASCAR. In October, the Town Board approved the concept of getting NASCAR sponsors — except alcohol or tobacco companies — to donate police squad cars painted to look like race cars. A marketing company, Charlotte, N.C.-based Government Acquisitions, is working with the town to negotiate sponsorships with companies, and it hopes to secure at least 25 fully loaded cars, which typically cost at least $25,000 each, for the town. The idea for the sponsorships came from Police Capt. Leon White, who has been with the department for 28 years.
Q: Where did you get the idea for doing the sponsorships?
White: I was working an off-duty cycle one night during race week, and I saw one of my cars going down the road with the blue lights and the sirens going. I thought, “It sure would be nice if I had some extra cars that some of the officers could have at home. Maybe we could send somebody a little quicker to wherever that car was going.” I had just been reading an article about [a race team], and I thought we could get some of the sponsors for the race cars to get us some cars. We could give every officer a take-home car and put more officers and cars in the communities for quicker response times.
[I mentioned the idea to the marketing company], and we went before the town board and got approval to look into it. Right now, we’ve got some packets out to the sponsors. We’re just waiting to hear back from some of those folks.
Q: What kind of appeal are you making to companies to make it worth their while to sponsor a car?
A: The sponsor would have the paint scheme of his race team on a police car. The car would stay on the streets for 45,000 miles or three years, whichever came first. That car would be seen 365 days a year, seven days a week. People, no matter where they are, are going to see the cars. [The companies are] actually getting advertising for the price of that car.
Q: What are the benefits of having police cars that look like race cars?
A: Of course, if we get those cars, they’re going to be a conversation piece, so it’s a good public relations tool as well as a tool for the tourism bureau. We have a museum here, and we have a bunch of the race shops, so people come in to see them, and they’ll want to see our cars, too.
Q: Will the companies sponsor the same make of police car as the car that they sponsor for NASCAR?
A: We would stay with the same sponsor-type vehicle, but we use four-door cars in police work. If [the sponsor for Bill Elliott’s car, which is a Dodge, donated a car, we would use] a four-door Dodge Intrepid. Same way with the Ford Taurus, which is what Dale Jarrett drives as the UPS car. We can’t use a Ford Taurus in our line of work, so we would use the Crown Victoria.
Q: Will officers get to choose which car they drive?
A: We’ll do it on a seniority basis. If it’s a Pontiac, I’m going to put those in the school system for the school resource officers, because I can’t get a police package or a cage for a Pontiac Grand Prix. [If we get M&M, Ken Schrader’s sponsor, to donate a car, it would be a Pontiac, and it] would go in the school system for the school resource officers. Can’t you just see those kids coming out if you put that M&M car at the door? Those kids will want to see the car and the officer.
Q: How have the residents responded to the idea of the sponsorships?
A: One of the local TV stations out of Charlotte interviewed some of the folks from downtown. There was one person that said he didn’t like it at all. One lady said she’d like to see it and then she’d make up her mind. The others said [they would] love to see that.
When they found out it wouldn’t cost them any tax dollars, more and more people seemed to like that idea, too. Anytime the taxpayers don’t have to put any more money out there, they are a little more liberal with what they will allow you to do. If you can save $700,000 by getting that many cars, that’s money that can go somewhere else in your town budget.