'Stealth' police cars aim to catch speeders
Distinctive new police cars are sprouting up around Florida, which could make life tough for scofflaws.
Posted on Sun, Aug. 05, 2007
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BY PHIL LONG
PALM BAY --
Police in this Space Coast town are hoping their stylish new dark blue patrol cars with low silhouette roof lights will make it harder for miscreant motorists.
Bucking something of a back-to-the-future trend toward ''black-and-white'' police car paint schemes, Chief Bill Berger is opting for mixture of stealth and distinctiveness that he hopes town residents will identify with, and speeders won't catch in their mirrors until it is too late.
Berger, a former Miami police commander and former North Miami Beach police chief, heads the Palm Bay Police Department, Brevard County's largest municipal department.
With about 35 of the new cars already on the road, Berger plans to buy at least 130 over the next few years.
''We write a tremendous amount of tickets, but we just can't keep up with the volume of offenders,'' Berger said, estimating that his officers issue about 24,000 citations a year. ``It's just almost like the Wild West as far as driving habits.''
The 100-square-mile town of about 110,000 had 21 traffic-related deaths last year, a record for the city, he said.
In city surveys, 80 percent of the people said they want more traffic enforcement, Berger said.
''They key thing is, coming up behind people,'' Berger said, ``they have no clue it is a police car.
''I hate to call it the stealth effect, but that is what it is,'' he said.
There are no government mandates for municipal police car colors. In South Florida, most departments have patrol cars that are white with varying colors of stripes, trim and logos.
Miami Beach and several other departments are going back to the future with ''black-and-whites,'' which appeared on popular television shows from the past like Adam-12 and Dragnet.
''Just like taxi cabs are yellow and fire trucks are red, police cars should be black and white,'' said Miami Beach police spokesman Bobby Hernandez.
The color scheme is a morale booster for officers, Hernandez said.
''It is trendy, it is retro, it goes with the whole art deco theme here in Miami Beach,'' Hernandez said. ``And the tourists love it. Every time you run out there along Ocean Drive, they stop you and want to take a picture.''
Beyond that, black-and-whites stand out in local neighborhoods and are recognized nationally and internationally as being associated with law enforcement, officers say.
Departments including Hollywood and Miramar in Broward are joining the ranks of black-and-whites.
''We felt that the public would be able to more readily identify our police cars by going back to black-and-white,'' said Miramar police spokesman Bill Robertson.
Surfside's chief, Dave Allen, has begun phasing in black-and-white cars, replacing white ones. ``We want to deter aggressive driving and speeding through high visibility.''
Some departments have distinctive colors or combinations. Pinecrest's patrol cars, for example, are green and Hialeah's are predominantly blue with a white side stripe.
Aventura's cars have been silver since the department's inception in 1996, earning them the moniker: ''sliver bullets,'' explained chief Steve Steinberg.