CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago police officers soon will patrol the streets in some sharp new wheels, and the high-tech cruisers are being made in Chicago.
Aside from the technology inside the new squad cars, the new fleet is a huge perk for the local economy, because they are being built at Ford’s assembly plant at 126th and Torrence.
The new Ford Police Interceptors and Explorers look pretty much the same as the current police cruisers, but Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said the new vehicles have better technology, to allow officers to be smarter, faster, and safer while on patrol.
“The newest mobile computers available, so officers have access to smart crime-fighting tools; such as gunshot detection systems, real-time crime mapping, police databases, and electronic crash reporting,” he said.
CPD Technical Services Bureau Chief Jonathan Lewin gave a tour of the new cruisers, which he said provide “pretty much all the information they [officers] can get at a district station.
The new vehicles also have a new light configuration, which officals said will enhance police presence on the streets.
The first 40 new SUVs hit the streets on Thursday. A total of 550 new SUVs and sedans should hit the streets by early next year. They will replace current vehicles that have logged more than 100,000 miles.
The city also has been equipping the police districts with the most violent crime with new “strategic decision support centers” equipped with ShotSpotter systems and other new technology to help make decisions on deployment and operations. The new police cars will get real-time updates from those systems.
The rollout of the new police SUVs comes on the heels of an especially violent 4th of July weekend, which saw more than 100 people shot in Chicago, at least 14 of them fatally. Johnson said the weekend was frustrating, and he stressed the importance of being one step ahead in the most violent neighborhoods.
“The 4th of July was something that was completely unacceptable, but listen, you have to stay with your strategy. We are seeing a lot of progress in those districts that we equipped with that new technology. Those districts, I believe, over the weekend were down 16 percent in violence,” Johnson said.
The new SUVs cost about $47,000 each. Last fall, the city borrowed $25 million to pay for the new vehicles for the nearly 1,000 new officers the Emanuel administration plans to hire by the end of 2018.
The department also is getting input on a new logo and paint design for the new cruisers. Johnson said the current look is outdated, and the department hopes to pick a new design by September.