Students may have noticed a fancy muscle car cruising the streets of Tempe recently.
The glossy black vehicle is outfitted with silver racing stripes, a custom grill, wheels and stereo system, but is also outfitted with the word “Police” on its trunk and running down its sides. It’s complete with emergency lights on top.
It’s Tempe Police’s custom 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, and it didn’t cost a dime to acquire, said Detective Dan Brown of the department’s Crime Prevention Unit. Brown is one of only four people allowed to drive it.
“There’s the regular Camaro, that’s $20,000 and is a 6 cylinder,” he said. “This is the SS, it’s like $42,000 sticker price buying it new.”
Police seized the 2010 Camaro in 2009 during a multi-agency operation called “Operation OG Style” that saw numerous arrests and search warrants served to break up narcotics and violent crime in the area.
The car had previously belonged to a high-level methamphetamine dealer, and because the car was used during the commission of a crime, police seized it, Brown said.
“He was involved in a valley-wide meth ring, so we seized it through RICO,” he said.
RICO is Arizona’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and allows police to seize property if that property was used in the commission of a crime.
Brown said most vehicles and items that are seized are stored, where they can later be returned to the owner or put up for auction. But some property can also be commissioned for police use.
For a department to use seized property involves a long process that requires much coordination and approval. Brown said it took a lot of convincing to prove the car would be beneficial and cost effective.
“It was kind of a rough road, because the perception was that people think we used tax dollars to buy this thing,” he said. “(That) we’re asking people to cut back, but we have this $50,000 car.”
But the only cost put into the car was about $1,500 to put on the police decal and the emergency light assembly on top, Brown said. Other than that, the car has had no other alterations.
“The beauty of it is, it’s about $30,000 to get a new police car, (and) we got this car for free, and it’s still under warranty,” Brown said. “So even with repair it doesn’t cost the city any money.”
The car’s custom Asanti wheels, with a price tag of about $3,000 apiece, were already on the car and so was the Asanti grill, but maybe even more impressive is the vehicle’s custom stereo system, Brown said.
“We actually took it to a stereo shop and (they) said for them to do (the custom speakers and panel assembly), it’d be $10,000,” he said.
Along with the cosmetic customization, the V8 engine boasts about 480 horsepower, a cold-air intake system and the car only had about 4,000 miles when the department seized it.
Ironically though, the department’s most powerful car is also the department’s slowest.
“This is a car that will never see 46 mph,” Brown said. “It’ll never go over 45 (mph), because the last thing we need with this car is to have one of us going above the speed limit. It’d be the last day this car is ever on the road.”
The car’s high profile would make it an easy target for complaints, and Brown said whenever they’re behind the wheel they want to stay safe and responsible.
“No one in here wants to be the one who wrecks this,” he said.
The car became a part of the Tempe Police force earlier this year, and Brown said it’s been a useful tool in aiding their unit’s efforts at crime prevention.
The car is not used for patrol and, despite its high horsepower, isn’t used to chase down runaway criminals, but instead used for display and for show at events.
“It brings everyone to us,” Brown said. “I couldn’t get that kind of exposure with a billboard.”
Detective Jeff Lane, also with the Crime Prevention Unit, said people are always coming up and asking about the car and that gives officers like him and Brown the opportunity to open up dialogue with people.
“The first thing they think is, ‘Wow, is this your new fleet?’ or, ‘How much money do you guys have that you’re going to be able to afford this type of car?’” Lane said. “They’re wowed by it, then they’re upset by it until we tell them the story.”
Brown said they want the car to help show people that even though drug dealing may seem appealing, there are consequences.
“It’s really not a car to us, it’s a marketing tool,” Brown said. “We want people to come to us, so we can tell them … in Arizona if you sell drugs, and the car is used to carry drugs, you can lose your car.”
The car has had a few appearances at the Tempe campus, and Brown said he’s working on getting it out for display at ASU’s homecoming on Oct. 19.
Otherwise, Brown said the car will be at Hayden Lawn for students to take a look at ASU’s Off-Campus Housing Fair on Nov. 7.
DeDe Grogan, administrative assistant of ASU’s Off-Campus Student Services said in an email the Off-Campus Housing Fair is meant to help students make a smooth transition to living off-campus.
Grogan said a range of local businesses and residential communities will be at the event giving out information and answering questions for students.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @markjremillard