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Northampton police phase out 'Crown Vics' in favor of roomier, more fuel-efficient utility vehicles

A Northampton Police Department SUV.

FILE PHOTO A Northampton Police Department SUV. Purchase photo reprints »

The Northampton Police Department has added three new Ford Interceptor utility vehicles to its fleet to replace three older vehicles.

The department has about 36 vehicles, according to Northampton Police Capt. Joseph Konacs.

The vehicles replace the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors, affectionately known as “Crown Vics”, that became the standard for police cruisers for decades.

“I’m sad to see it go,” said Koncas about the Crown Vic. Ford ceased production of that vehicle in 2011.

After searching for appropriate vehicles, the department narrowed the decision to a Ford-manufactured sedan-style cruiser based on Ford’s Taurus vehicles, or the larger Interceptor utility vehicles, modeled after Ford’s Explorer SUV.

Koncas said a major consideration in choosing the larger model was the size of the vehicle itself.

The new cruisers provide much more room for officers, their equipment, and passengers (willing or not) than their sedan-style counterparts.

Room is a major factor when selecting a vehicle for police use, Koncas said.

Seats in police vehicles need to be able to accommodate an officer while wearing a fully-loaded duty belt which can add six inches of width, Koncas said.

The Taurus-style cruisers also have a lower profile, providing less visibility than the new vehicles, Koncas said, especially for taller officers, some of whom are at eye-level with a smaller vehicle’s visor when seated inside.

Koncas said the new SUV-style vehicles are a good fit for the department and provide all of the benefits of the Crown Vics, as well as some improvements.

The new vehicles’ six-cylinder engine makes them more fuel efficient than the eight-cylinder Crown Victorias, and their all-wheel drive provides better stability in inclement weather and can better access difficult terrain, Koncas said.

He said that during particularly bad weather, the department would resort to borrowing vehicles from other city departments like Public Works to get around.

That practice is an impractical solution, Koncas said, forcing officers to resort to bringing portable radios and other equipment and attaching temporary lights to vehicles not designed for police work.

The vehicles were something of a bargain as well, with all three costing a combined total of about $115,000, Koncas said.

The vehicles were purchased through MHQ, a Marlborough-based company that specializes in procuring vehicles for cities and towns.

Each year, the department is authorized to purchase three new vehicles to replace three older ones. The city sells the older vehicles and uses the proceeds to offset the costs of purchasing replacements.

Koncas said the decision of which vehicles to purchase and how they should ultimately look was a group effort.

Koncas said Staff Sgt. Robert Powers, and officer Robert Moriarty, reviewed the department’s options and whittled down the list, and officer John Lopez helped design the graphics on the new cruisers.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.

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