- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. Cash-strapped police departments around the country including in Hagerstown, Md. are considering selling advertising space on their patrol cars, an idea that has some officers worried they will get stuck driving around with an embarrassing ad.
"I don't want my officers driving around in a car [with a suggestive condom ad]," said Louis Napoletano, public safety director of Long Branch, N.J. "We've come a long way to be perceived as professional, and this would set us way back."
Government Acquisitions LLC, a company in Charlotte N.C., started selling the ads about two months ago.
The arrangement works like this: A police department agrees to put ads on its patrol cars, usually on the hood or on the side and rear. In return, Government Acquisitions provides new patrol cars to the department for $1 and replaces them every three years. The company keeps the ad revenue.
"Due to a lack of government funding and tight budgets, police departments across America don't have the equipment they need," said Ken Allison, president of Government Acquisitions. "If you're home at night with your wife and kids, and some maniac breaks into your house, you call 911 and you want a police car there. You don't care if there's a Burger King logo on the trunk."
So far, 20 mostly smaller municipalities around the nation have signed contracts, and scores of other cities have expressed interest, Mr. Allison said. The first cars should be delivered within a few months.
Hagerstown Police Chief Art Smith said he was looking into the venture, and sending inquiries to City Hall's finance director and his command staff.
"It's certainly a way to free up some resources so not all of our funding is sucked down in vehicle costs," Chief Smith said.
Other Washington-area police departments have not signed on for the ads, and many say they don't plan to.
Rockville Police Chief Terry Treschuk said the measure would lower professional standards.
"We haven't had to face a situation where we would consider the idea," he said. "But the idea gives the wrong impression of the police, who are there to protect and serve, not push a brand name."
In New Jersey, North Brunswick's police department is considering the idea, which Mayor David Spaulding estimated could save the city $250,000 a year on its 18 marked patrol cars in a municipality with a $30 million annual budget.
"I'll be happy to slap someone's name on our municipal building if they give us enough money," he said. "My overriding goal is to be fiscally responsible, and that's what we're doing. We're trying to save the taxpayers money."
Michael Moriarty, North Brunswick's public safety director, said officers from other communities find the idea hilarious. They have been calling, pretending to be from Hooters and offering to sponsor a car.
But he said the idea can work, provided the ads are done tastefully.
Government Acquisitions has signed up or hopes to sign up burglar-alarm companies, real estate agencies, auto body shops, children's learning centers, fast-food restaurants, and agencies searching for lost and missing children.
The ads cannot come from alcohol, tobacco, gun or gambling interests, and the police departments have some leeway to reject ads they deem inappropriate, Mr. Allison said.
Some potential advertisers love the idea.
"We'll be able to attach our name to local authorities, which gives us near-instant credibility," said Victor Adams, president of Alltech Specialists, a Tampa, Fla., distributor of home burglar alarms.
The Elizabeth Township Police Department near Pittsburgh hopes to buy up to 15 cars from Government Acquisitions. The police chief is a NASCAR fan and liked the idea of plastering cars with ads, Deputy Chief Bob Wallace said.
Michelle Bozio Beaton, who runs a vacuum-cleaner business in North Brunswick, said the ads ultimately are not worth the money they generate.
Staff writer Marguerite Higgins contributed to this report in Washington.


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