By STEVE JONES Staff writer
The City of Rome is getting its own decommissioned armored vehicle from Brinks to serve as a surveillance vehicle to assist with police patrols and investigations.
A request by Council Public Safety Committee Chair John Sparace, R-1, and Councilor Kimberly A. Rogers, R-3, along with City Clerk Louise S. Glasso, to the Texas-based armored car company has been accepted.
The request was made "in an effort to equip the Rome City Police Department with an unmanned armored surveillance vehicle to assist with their patrols and investigations," they announced in a statement. In 2010, the City of Utica obtained a vehicle from Brinks and dubbed it the Armadillo. Rome officials met with Utica Police Chief Mark Williams at the end of 2011 to learn how Utica retrofitted and had been utilizing the vehicle to make arrests and improve neighborhood safety.
Rome will be placed on a waiting list for both the Syracuse and Albany Brinks branches, Rogers said. Once a vehicle becomes available, the city must pay a $10 fee to Brinks to transfer the title. The city must agree that the vehicle will be used for police purposes only and in the event the city no longer wishes to use it, it must be either destroyed or returned.
"Our hope is that being on two lists we will receive the vehicle sooner and be able to quickly move forward with retrofitting it for use by the Rome police department," said Rogers. "There are several pocket areas throughout the city that are plagued with drug activity, vandalism and violence and these areas will benefit greatly from the use of a vehicle like this."
The police department deploys its mobile command bus in troubled areas, however, the bus is designed as a mobile command center rather than a surveillance vehicle, Sparace noted. "I was first introduced to the Armadillo concept at Law Enforcement Day. After seeing the vehicle first hand I knew that I wanted to pursue one for Rome. He added, "this vehicle will be an invaluable resource. From drug arrests to vandalism and noise, the use of this vehicle in problem areas will have a significant positive impact for residents."
The vehicle comes equipped with bullet-proof windows, with surveillance cameras and recording equipment to be added so that it can be parked in an area unmanned while streaming video is monitored from the police department. The vehicle will be marked with bold declarations identifying its purpose, which may include a statement like "Warning You Are Under Surveillance."
Glasso, one of the founders of the city’s Weed & Seed program, said: "This is great news for Rome residents. Very often people are too frightened to sign affidavits or testify against those committing crimes in their neighborhoods for fear of retribution. This vehicle can serve as their eyes and their voice."
Rogers noted that obtaining the vehicle is only one part of process. "We are now looking for donations and volunteers willing to help us with the design and retrofit of the vehicle once we receive it. We have identified some funding but we still have a lot of work to do."
The police department "wholeheartedly supports this project and together we have determined that the total cost to get the necessary equipment to convert the vehicle for the surveillance portion will be around $35,000," said Sparace. "The RPD has some funds available to allocate toward the project including approximately $15,000 in grant monies but we need help from the community to finish the project."
Potential areas for assistance in addition to equipment will likely include vehicle repairs (if necessary), painting or wrapping the vehicle, foam for the tires to make them puncture-proof and "any other financial or in-kind assistance that the business community or Rome residents are willing to offer," Sparace added.
The Rome Community Foundation will accept financial donations for this project. Donations can be made payable to The Rome Community Foundation, 301 N. Washington St., P.O. Box 609 Rome, NY 13442-0609. To ensure the donation is applied correctly indicate that the funds are for the Rome Armored Vehicle Project. Those interested in helping to retrofit the vehicle can contact Rogers at 404-5322 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Sparace at 525-0777 or at email@example.com.