By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD – The City of Rockford’s Finance & Personnel Committee, on Monday, gave the full city council the go-ahead to vote on a leasing plan that would provide the police department with 28 new squad cars this year.
If approved, this year’s lease will be for $1.4 million. It is part of a five-year, $6 million vehicle replacement program. The city will spend $211,493 a year to repay the lease beginning in 2019. The city will own the vehicles at the end of the term.
“Public safety is on the top of my list of priorities,” Mayor Tom McNamara said. “And I think it’s at the very top for the vast majority of Rockford citizens. Officers are looking forward to new vehicles because the vehicles they’ve been driving have had tremendous wear and tear.”
The lease is a string of public-safety investments in McNamara’s first year. Since last May, aldermen have approved a gunshot detection system, license-place reader, and surveillance cameras for high-traffic intersections. The department has purchased more drones, social-media monitoring software also increased its rank-and-file force to 300 for the first time in a decade.
More dash cams are coming to the police department. The city has received a $200,000 grant from the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board to purchase cameras for squad cars that are not being replaced under the new lease. The grant is a part of a statewide joint purchasing agreement.
The committee agreed Monday to tap Springfield-based CDS Office Technologies to install the cameras, which will cost between $300 and $500 each. Twenty-four squad cars are currently equipped with dash cams.
McNamara said despite the city’s budgetary constraints, public-safety investments were vital. And even though reducing crime can be a slow process, those investments are already paying off.
“What we are doing is really working,” the mayor said. “From 2016 to 2017, we reduced violent crime by 8 percent and property crime by 5 percent. And if you look at what we’ve done from January through April 2018 and compare that to January through April 2017, we’ve reduced property crime by 1 percent over that year and violent crime by 22 percent. This technology is allowing our officers the tools and resources they need to get to scenes and soon as possible and hold these (criminals) accountable. If you do crime in Rockford, you will be held accountable. Our No. 1 priority is to make sure we have safe homes, safe streets and ultimately safe neighborhoods and a safe city.”
The five-year vehicle replacement program will also include ambulances, fire engines and public works vehicles. R.