Wednesday, June 04, 2008 — In reaction to rising gasoline prices, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office has parked squad cars previously used to conduct perimeter security checks around Cook County Jail and suburban court facilities and replaced them with bicycle patrols, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today.
A total of 24 deputies and officers who previously used gas guzzling police cruisers to provide perimeter security at the jail and five suburban courthouses are now patrolling on mountain bicycles. The officers are trained to identify security breaches around the jail and courthouses, issue parking citations and watch for young children left behind unattended in vehicles.
In addition to the fuel savings, the bicycle patrols eliminate the pollution produced by the vehicles as well as promote physical fitness for the officers. Thanks to the gas saving initiative, 17 vehicles have been reduced to minimum use, which is expected to save more than $60,000 in fuel costs this year.
“The switch to bike patrols is one of many ‘green’ initiatives the Sheriff’s Office has launched to reduce fuel consumption,” Sheriff Dart said. “We have taken immediate action to address the recent spike in gas prices and we are planning long term changes in operations to make the Office more energy efficient.”
The Sheriff’s Office has reduced the total number of squad cars in its vehicle fleet by 12 percent since 2005 by eliminating vehicle “take home” privileges for officers who live outside Cook County and by instituting a car pool system for supervisory staff. Since the new fleet management system policies have been put in place, total gas consumption by the Sheriff’s Office has fallen approximately 9 percent, from123,000 gallons per month in 2006 to 112,000 gallons per month this year.
By the end of the summer, the Sheriff’s Office also expects to deploy 12 Ford Escape hybrid vehicles in its Child Support Enforcement Division. The fuel-saving SUVs will be used by deputies assigned to track down deadbeat dads.
The Sheriff’s Office has also proposed utilizing a video conferencing system that would allow jail inmates to appear before a judge via closed circuit television for minor court proceedings. The system would drastically cut the transportation costs, including gasoline consumption, incurred by bussing inmates to appearances at the county’s five suburban court facilities. Many of the individual proceedings take only a matter of minutes to complete. The Sheriff’s Office transports between 1,000 and 1,500 inmates to court appearances on a daily basis.