Local law enforcement leaders say they are trying to make sure officers supply the best possible coverage and protection despite surging gas prices.
“We are asking officers to drive slowly, no jack rabbit starts and to cut the car off instead of idling,” said Chief Sam White of the Union Public Safety Department. “We are also trying to combine trips if we are going to Spartanburg or Columbia. We wait until we can take care of two or three items at a time.”
White said when this year's budget was planned back in the spring, it was created with an increase in fuel costs in mind. But if the price per gallon stays at its present rate or goes even higher, it won't be covered.
“We are already out of kilter,” he said. “We planned for $3.50 a gallon.”
The public safety department has 21 road officers on four shifts, four school resource officers who will go back on the road during the summer, two animal control officers who work one at a time, a Main Street officer who primarily is on foot patrol, five investigators, a fire commander and one other captain.
Union County Sheriff Howard Wells said he presented his budget to Union County Council with high fuel costs in mind - he only asked for an $88 increase to cover a fee cost for the sheriff's office. He did ask for increases in the jail budget to cover maintenance, medication and transportation costs.
“We tried to hold the line and soften the blow to county council,” he said. “Everything is affected by the high cost of fuel - utilities, medication - it will affect everything you do.”
Wells said state law requires that sheriff's deputies patrol an entire county twice in a seven-day period.
“Civil process and calls put us in every area,” Wells said. “Patrols are running about the same as in the past. People want a quick response time with competent officers.”
The sheriff's office has 16 uniformed patrol officers. Other employees in vehicles include a school resource officer, four investigators, two narcotics officers, three deputies who are process servers and one chief deputy.
Jonesville Police Chief Eddie Smith said so far, he and the other three full time officers haven't altered how they patrol.
“Town council meets on June 3,” he said. “We have been discussing some things like parking cars more and walking around town. It might be possible we have to leave cars at the police department and drive a personal car to work, but we haven't implemented anything yet.”