Manufacturing delays force law enforcement agencies across Golden Triangle to wait for new patrol vehicles

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – For the second year in a row, law enforcement agencies in the Golden Triangle and all over the country are having to wait on new squad cars and other patrol vehicles.

“Last year, when we ordered vehicles, because of the COVID issues, and the labor issues, the vehicles couldn’t get manufactured quick enough to get here before the end of the fiscal year,” says Lowndes County Sheriff Eddie Hawkins.

Sheriff Hawkins says that due to those COVID delays, the department had to pay for 2020’s and 2021’s new cars all on the 2021 budget.

Meanwhile, Mississippi State University Police say they are searching for three new vehicles to add to their fleet after budget issues forced them not to buy new cars in 2020.

“In a normal year, we would have purchased at least two units,” says Police Chief Vance Rice. “So, that puts us a little behind and running vehicles longer than we normally would have.”

In 2021, the delay in production is being caused by the chips for the vehicle’s key fobs.

“The chip makers overseas have focused all their chips on computers, and apparently, the automakers are at the lower end of the spectrum in getting computer chips,” Chief Rice says. 

“One little chip is holding up production on all these vehicles across the nation,” says Sheriff Hawkins.

The sheriff says they have multiple vehicles that are constantly in need of maintenance. That includes some with as many as 200,000 miles on them.

“The maintenance budget is going up and up because we’re trying to keep these cars on the road,” he says. “With newer vehicles, if something goes wrong, they’re still under warranty and we can get them fixed. That way, it doesn’t cost the county money.”

The number of miles put on the sheriff’s department’s cars and the amount of time campus police cars spend idling all puts wear and tear on the vehicles that also takes them out of rotation.

“When we have to take them to get repairs done, and we don’t have something else for the officers to drive, our deputies are having to respond to calls but they don’t have anything to respond to in and we’re dead in the water,” Sheriff Hawkins says.

Sheriff Hawkins said that as of Monday, they are currently waiting on eight new cars in Jackson to have their lights, radios and other equipment installed.

“We’re hoping to get these new vehicles in and our maintenance go down so that we have better quality vehicles on the road so we can provide better service to our community,” he says.

Sheriff Hawkins says the department hopes to get their new vehicles by the end of July or early August.

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