Sheriff says muscle car useful
RALEIGH -- Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison says the Corvette Z06 being used by his deputies to pull over cars on Interstate 40 is a potent tool for fighting illegal drugs.
"We saw a need for it," Harrison said Wednesday about the special-model Chevy that goes 198 mph and was seized from a cocaine dealer. "We're going to get a lot of drugs off the road."
A Wake judge ordered Lawrence Creech Jr., the Corvette's previous owner, to forfeit it to the Wake Sheriff's Office following his arrest in December for cocaine possession and maintaining a vehicle for the keeping of controlled substances, according to court records. The 2007 car has a current retail value of $56,990, according to Kelley Blue Book.
The North Carolina Constitution says all forfeitures and all fines for breaking the state's criminal laws "shall be faithfully appropriated and used exclusively for maintaining free public schools."
But there is also a state law that says a law enforcement agency in custody of a seized car can "retain the property for official use."
Harrison said Wednesday that he intends to keep the car as long as it proves useful. When his department is done with it, the car will be sold, and the proceeds will go to the Wake County Public School System.
North Carolina's largest school district could use the money. Facing a sour economy and the prospects of deep state budget cuts, school officials have instituted a hiring freeze, announced plans to cut about 1,500 employees and are bracing for additional cuts in the coming months.
But Wake County Attorney Scott Warren and Michael Crowell, a lawyer at the UNC School of Government, both agreed that Harrison is within the law to keep the car. There is nothing that would require the sheriff to sell the seized car within a specific period, they said.
"We would certainly appreciate any extra dollars we could have this year to hire more teachers or keep more teachers," said Anne McLaurin, a member of the Wake school board. "But I don't think there's anything we can do about the sheriff's decision, except encourage him to be generous."
Wake teacher Maryanne Faneck is more blunt. In the current economic environment, with teachers being laid off and education programs being cut, Faneck said using such an extravagant car to patrol the county's highways reflects poorly on the sheriff's department. It should be sold and the proceeds given to the schools, she said.
"I think they just want to drive a cool car," said Faneck, who teaches physical education at Swift Creek Elementary School in Raleigh.
Though the county got the Corvette free, that doesn't mean it comes without costs. Harrison estimated his department spent about $9,000 to outfit the car with blue lights, siren, radar gun, radio, laptop computer and other standard gear.
Records from the county garage show the Z06, which had 10,278 miles on its odometer when it was titled to the county on April 2, required a new set of special high-speed tires earlier this month. The four Goodyear F1 tires cost the county $1,571.98, according to the written repair order.
The car sat largely unused until Friday, the sheriff said, when it was assigned to a deputy with the department's Drug Impact Team.
On his first night on patrol in the Corvette, the deputy nabbed a car carrying drugs. Harrison said the car's stealthy, low-slung profile makes it difficult for drug runners or speeders to spot.
"Certainly, most people don't see a Corvette as a law enforcement vehicle," he said.
And the Z06's 505-horsepower, V8 engine also ensures it can catch just about anything on the road.
"It drives great," said the sheriff, who took the car home one night last week. He said it was the only time he has driven the Corvette, which rides a little rougher than the department-issue Dodge Charger he uses as his primary vehicle.
In response to a public records request, Harrison said he had no log or other document showing who has driven the car or when. As it sat in the parking garage under the county jail Wednesday, the Corvette had just 11,792 miles on the odometer -- 1,514 more than it had when the department took possession.
Faneck predicted the car will cost taxpayers more than it's worth.
"Who's going to pay for the maintenance on that high-dollar car?" she asked. "I mean $1,500 for a set of tires every 10,000 miles? As a teacher who was furloughed, I hope I'm not paying for that."
Deputies using Corvette to catch speeders
July 21, 2009
RALEIGH -- If you plan to outrun the law in Wake County, you’d better have a very, very fast car.
Or maybe a rocket.
Wake deputies have been spotted using a black Chevy Corvette Z06 to pull over speeders on Interstate 40. Among the fastest production cars in the world, the Z06 has a base sticker price of $74,875 and a growling V8 racing engine that turns out 505 horsepower.
The car has a top track speed of 198 miles per hour, according to Chevrolet.
Though the car has set tongues wagging among Triangle sports-car enthusiasts, Sheriff Donnie Harrison declined to talk to The New & Observer about the Corvette Monday or Tuesday. He did show the car to crews from local television stations.
“You’re not going to force me to talk about anything, you understand?” the sheriff said by telephone late Tuesday, his voice raised. “I’ve got a schedule to run. I don’t sell papers.”
Harrison said he was upset by an N&O reporter calling county commissioners for comment about the Corvette before he was ready to hold a media conference about it.
County Manager David Cooke said that it is his understanding that the Corvette was seized from a drug dealer, but that he could provide no further information, such as how much county money had been spent to upgrade the car.
Gary Buchanan, a Raleigh resident who owns a 2007 Corvette, saw Wake deputies last week using the stealthy, unmarked Z06 to enforce the 65-miles-per-hour speed limit on I-40 in Cary.
“It had blue lights in the back and blue lights in the front,” Buchanan said. “It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. Something like that is so extreme. I mean, if my wife was out driving and this thing came up behind her and the lights started going off, man, she’d be scared to death.”
A Corvette co-insurer, Buchanan said he was concerned about the safety and expense of using the car for law enforcement. The special high speed tires the Z06 requires have to be replaced every 10,000 miles and cost up to $1,500 a set. The vehicle handles poorly in wet or cold weather, he said, and he wondered how a deputy could use a stick shift and work the blue lights and radio all at the same time.
The car’s wide, low-slung profile makes it nearly impossible to take off road, such as would be required to cross an interstate median. “This thing is not cheap to operate,” Buchanan said. “And Corvettes have to be driven by people who know what they’re doing.
"Because if you don’t, you can get into serious trouble real quick. The Z06 in particular is a pretty potent automobile.”
Other North Carolina sheriff’s departments have deployed flashy, souped-up cars in the past.
Former Davidson County Sheriff Gerald Hege had a black Chevy Impala SS with a painting of a black widow spider emblazoned on the side doors. Rebuilt by the Welcome shop of a NASCAR team-owner, the government-owned car Hege drove had a Corvette engine and two tanks of nitrous oxide to boost its horsepower.
The “Spider Car” was sold at auction for $32,000 in 2005, after Hege was removed from office and convicted on corruption charges.
In Forsyth County, former sheriff Ron Barker bought several Camaro Z28s in 1999 for a special Highway Interdiction Team. Kevin Barker, the sheriff’s grandson and a deputy, soon wrecked and totaled the $21,000 sports car while traveling in excess of 100 miles per hour during a high-speed pursuit.
The Wake Sheriff’s Office refused to comment on how its Z06 will be used or who gets to drive it. Asked Monday whether the car could be photographed, spokeswoman Phyllis Stephens said it was not available because the deputy it was assigned to was not on duty. Asked whether the deputy had taken the car home, Stephens refused to answer.
There are several photos of the sheriff’s car posted on Internet sites run by Corvette enthusiasts, however.
A request filed early Tuesday seeking public records related to the vehicle’s acquisition was not granted.
“I can get those to you at my convenience and at a time allowed by law,” Harrison said. “We’ll get you public records when I get time to get the public records to you.”
State public records law dictates that government agencies provide public records “as promptly as possible.”
Wake Commissioner Tony Gurley, who used to race stock cars, said he first heard about the Z06 being used by the sheriff’s office while at a recent car show.
“I was looking at a Highway Patrol car and a trooper told me about it,” Gurley said. “He was jealous. I told him that I didn’t remember voting on any funds to authorize that. I can’t even afford one for myself.”
Board chairman Harold Webb questioned whether using such a car at a time when the Wake sheriff’s officer and other county agencies are undergoing deep cuts and staff layoffs sends the right message.
“I hope he didn’t use any stimulus money for this,” Webb said of the sheriff.
June 2021 May 2021 April 2021 March 2021 February 2021 January 2021 December 2020 November 2020 October 2020 September 2020 August 2020 July 2020 June 2020 May 2020 April 2020 March 2020 February 2020 January 2020 December 2019 November 2019 October 2019 September 2019 August 2019 July 2019 June 2019 May 2019 April 2019 March 2019 February 2019 January 2019 December 2018 November 2018 October 2018 September 2018 August 2018 July 2018 June 2018 May 2018 April 2018 March 2018 February 2018 January 2018 December 2017 November 2017 October 2017 September 2017 August 2017 July 2017 June 2017 May 2017 April 2017 March 2017 February 2017 January 2017 December 2016 November 2016 October 2016 September 2016 August 2016 July 2016 June 2016 May 2016 April 2016 March 2016 February 2016 January 2016 December 2015 November 2015 October 2015 September 2015 August 2015 July 2015 June 2015 May 2015 April 2015 March 2015 February 2015 January 2015 December 2014 November 2014 October 2014 September 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 April 2014 March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008