Catherine Ross, McKinney Reporter
The Collin County Sheriff's Office is now among the law enforcement agencies adding SUVs to patrol forces.
This summer, the Collin County Sheriff's Office will have a new fleet of vehicles.
The county has purchased 11 new mid-sized Ford Police Interceptor sport utility vehicles.
"This is the best use of taxpayer money," Public Works Director Jon Kleinheksel said. "We probably invested 12 months of research time in it."
The county said the can stand up to the wear and tear of patrolling both paved city roads and rural terrain.
"We can put between 65,000 and 80,000 miles on a patrol vehicle," said Lt. John Norton, who noted that, despite tremendous growth, much of Collin County is still rural.
The decision to bring in larger vehicles was also spurred by Ford Motor Co.'s decision to discontinue the Crown Victoria in the 2012 model year. Collin County also will still use the 2011 Crown Victoria model.
Norton said that with the upgrades in technology, a deputy's vehicle is like his or her office. After spending eight hours a day patrolling and doing paperwork in the vehicle, sedans often become cramped, he said.
"We've got in car computers, radar units, mobile cameras to record voice and audio," he said. "You try and put that in a smaller car, and it can get pretty full."
Besides space concerns, the fuel economy of the SUVs and the all-wheel drive features are improvements over the Crown Victorias, Kleinheksel said.
The county also considered the vehicles' higher ground clearance if, for example, a deputy needed to drive through a field.
"We still go off road a lot," Norton said.
The sheriff's office said it believes the SUVs, which run about $30,000 each, would be more durable than sedan models. Officials said they hope that having to do less maintenance will save money that can be put toward fuel.