DADE CITY, FL – Dade City has joined a handful of other cities in the Tampa Bay area whose officers are using electric vehicles to patrol school grounds or police heavily populated events such as parades, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
The city's Police Department currently operates three electric vehicles in its fleet. The four-wheeled GEM is one of two eco-friendly vehicles - the other is a three-wheeler called a T3 — that the department purchased in the past year using police impact fee funds.
"It's amazing, because when you ride them, people will come out and talk to you," said Chief Ray Velboom. "I've had people come out and say, 'What's that?' "
With the help of city officials, the Police Department was able to afford the vehicles using public safety impact fees - funds earmarked from new construction that can be used for police cars or equipment.
Mayor Scott Black said the commission voted 5-0 in November to allow Velboom to spend $18,849 to buy the electric vehicles. "People may question it (the purchase) until we tell them it comes from specific money dedicated for this type of purchase," he said. "It's a conversation piece, that's for sure. And, it serves a purpose."
By the end of the year, the T3 and the GEM, which Velboom found during an Internet search, were delivered to the Police Department. The vehicles are stored in a shed behind headquarters with police bicycles, Velboom said.
Officers get to use the GEM and the T3 first-come, first-served, Velboom said. "The administration staff uses it for errands during the day. I park my police car and sometimes don't get back in until the end of the day."
Dade City Police Officer Cristina draws attention to the department's GEM as she makes her way around town. Once, a woman asked if she could hop in the car and take a picture with Diaz. The two of them posed while a friend took a snapshot.
However, liability issues prevent Diaz from agreeing to other requests. "Sometimes, they ask for a ride," Diaz said. "I have to tell them no, since it is a police vehicle."