SLSO saves IL community after bank repossesses cruisers

By Juan Carlos Fanjul - bio | email

ALEXANDER CO, IL (WFLX) - A Palm City flat bed truck arrived in Illinois Monday night with some precious cargo: Five desperately needed used police cruisers.

Alexander County, Illinois, population 8,000, is $500,000 in the red, and the recession has made a bad situation worse according to Sheriff David Barkett. "God willing, we're going to protect these people, and we're gonna continue with what we got. We're used to struggling."

Things got so bad this month, the bank repossessed five of his seven cruisers. Four of them sit in the bank parking lot now, shed of their emergency lights, antennas and even their seals. "I'd say it's a very extreme example of economic hardship when it affects the protection of lives and property."

It gets worse. In addition to losing his cruisers, the sheriff has lost 75 percent of his staff, most of them deputies due to budget cuts.

And Barkett patrols in an SUV, the Illinois governor loaned him, working extra-long hours with help from volunteers and Illinois state troopers.

That's why the donation of five Crown Victorias from St. Lucie County has been a God send for them.

High in miles, but still in running order, the old cruisers were going to be auctioned off until Sheriff Ken Mascara heard about the little Midwest town with the deputies who had no squad cars. "As a sheriff, I know the demands he faces everyday. And as a sheriff, I couldn't imagine facing those demands with out cars."

The state of Illinois paid for the transportation of the five squad cars.

The St. Lucie Sheriff put the cages back in and the lights, as well, so the squad cars should be able to hit the streets right away.