The weak supply of patrol cars has put a strain on law enforcement

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SPRINGDALE – Law enforcement in Northwest Arkansas is ready to go, but the pace at which they can replace patrol vehicles has slowed.

Law enforcement agencies are caught up in the same supply chain issues as others who want to buy new and used cars.

Don Clark, fleet manager for Superior Chevrolet Buick GMC in Siloam Springs, said the dealership expects delivery of more than 100 orders for police vehicles in October, December and January. Superior supplies vehicles locally, statewide, and even some out-of-state law enforcement agencies, he said.

“It’s because of the semiconductors,” he said.

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Almost everything contains silicon chips, according to news service reports. Insufficient supply is not just a problem for computer and smartphone producers. Almost all of the durable goods in the world require silicon semiconductor chips, including cars.

The shortage is caused by uncertainty over the pandemic and stockpiling of the chips by manufacturers, the reports continue.

Wyman Morgan, director of administration and finance for Springdale, said police response times could lengthen if all of his vehicles are not in service.

Many departments will continue to use the vehicles they have available, although a vehicle’s reliability declines and the cost of repairing it increases, he said. He noted that all vehicles from Springdale’s order for 2021 have arrived.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is only missing one Chevrolet Tahoe ordered for delivery this year, said Major Kenny Yates, chief of the department’s law enforcement division.

“We will drive them until they collapse and cannot be fixed,” he said. “But it’s not profitable when you spend more money to fix a vehicle than it’s worth. It can happen when you are looking at a repair of $ 2,000 to $ 5,000.”

The Rogers Police Department ordered cars in January that did not arrive, said Keith Foster, a spokesperson for the department. “We are doing with our current fleet,” he said last week.

The Bentonville Police Department has eight Tahoes on order.

“We are in constant contact with our suppliers in the hope that these vehicles will be available soon,” said Adam McInnis, spokesperson for the department.

Morgan said the prices departments will pay for the new patrol vehicles may not be as expensive as feared. Semiconductor shortages have reduced the production of new cars, so consumers have turned to used cars, which have become much more expensive, according to news reports.

Vehicle price increases are often based on inflation, the cost of production, and new government requirements for safety and convenience, Clark said. Supply and demand also dictate costs, he said.

Clark has experienced shortages in his 50 years in auto sales – 30 years for law enforcement – but not to this extent.

“Labor strikes, natural disasters and equipment shortages are all things that can happen, but no one anticipated the prolonged effect of the pandemic,” he said.

Gary Sipes, executive director of the Arkansas Police Chiefs Association, said departments large and small across the state are looking for patrol cars.

“They are going to have to take care of their cars,” he said. “But the police will still be able to come out and protect and serve as they always have.”

BUDGETS

Springdale City Council on Tuesday authorized Police Chief Mike Peters to allocate part of the city’s 2022 budget.

“The dealership said it’s likely that if we don’t place our order by mid-July, we may not receive any police-marked vehicles in 2022,” a letter from Peters to the board reads. .

The department will order 12 branded Ford Explorers for no more than $ 444,000. He was told they should arrive in March or April.

The city pays when the cars are delivered, Morgan explained.

“They say the first to order is likely to get vehicles, but not the ones who place orders later,” Morgan added.

Morgan explained that most police departments order a few cars each year for their fleets, rather than having to pay for hundreds of new cars every few years.

Morgan also noted that departments often have to replace vehicles destroyed in the line of duty. Three patrol vehicles on order for next year are replacements, he said.

Superior also told Yates to order early, but said it was difficult to work out an order plan now for the vehicles needed next year.

Yates noted that the sheriff’s office – as many departments do – reuses equipment on patrol vehicles to save money. Chevrolet announced a new body style for the Tahoe but did not reveal it. He cannot determine whether police equipment such as light bars and cages will adapt to the new style or need to be replaced, Yates said.

An equipment order can also take six months or more, he said.

Prices for 2022 were also not announced, Yates continued.

“But I have to plan my budget now,” he said. “I have to make an educated guess.”

Yates said the office has ordered five vehicles for the Sheriff’s Office Detention Division for $ 190,044 and six for the Execution Division for $ 199,041 for this year.

Peters said the Department of Springdale added 10% to the 2021 state offering price for the Ford Explorers to estimate the cost for 2022. That would cost about $ 37,000 each of the 12 vehicles, a- he declared.

State law requires state agencies, governments and school districts to obtain competitive bids for purchases costing more than $ 20,000, Morgan explained. The state is a member of the inter-local purchasing system, which aggregates bids or negotiates the prices of many items that the state needs. Local governments and nonprofit groups also buy items for the set price from the auction listing.

Police departments often work with local dealers who can meet the state’s bid price, Morgan said.

The Springdale Police Department also rents 11 different unmarked cars each year from Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Peters said. Many car rental companies sold parts of their fleets during the pandemic to raise funds and are now buying used cars to replenish their supply, a statement read.

The shortage of rental cars combined with increased demand has pushed up car rental prices by 90% in the past year, the report continues.

Company officials told Peters last month that several automakers said vehicles ordered after August may not be delivered in 2022.


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