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Friday, July 24, 2009

 

Sheriff's deputy uses Corvette ZO6 to stop speeders

Sheriff says muscle car useful

 

MICHAEL BIESECKER
The News and Observer 
Staff Writer
July 22, 2009
Last updated uly 24, 2009 1:45 pm

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.

 

CORVETTEE3.NE072209.TEL
'We're going to get a lot of drugs off the road,'
Sheriff Donnie Harrison says of the department's
 Corvette Z06. - STAFF PHOTO BY TRAVIS LONG

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."

 

 

                          RELATED ARTICLE

 

Deputies using Corvette to catch speeders

 

By Michael Biesecker
The News and Observer
Staff Writer

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.

corvette
A publicity photo of a Corvette Z06 provided by
General Motors. A similar car is being used by
the Wake County Sheriff's Office. -
GENERAL MOTORS

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.

 

 

 


Comments:
Rosco has got sumthin to catch those Duke boys now.
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