Auditor Says San Jose Can Save Cash By Parking Cop Cars

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(AP)

(AP)

SAN JOSE (KCBS) – A new audit identified a relatively simple way for the City of San Jose to cut its expenses.

According to the report, nearly 130 police department sedans, SUVs and motorcycles were routinely being used by officers to commute to and from work. If a majority of those vehicles were parked in city garages instead, San Jose stood to save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

“It’s my opinion that we have to look for every place where we can find efficiencies in order to provide the basic services to the residents of San Jose,” declared San Jose Auditor Sharon Erickson.

Erickson scrutinized off-hours use of department vehicles throughout the city’s fleet.

“We estimate the expense of this commuting is about $1.1 million, including about $900,000 in the police department,” she explained. “I was actually surprised to see how many of them were in the police department.”

Erickson recommended that a majority of those police vehicles not be used for commuting purposes.

“So those 93 vehicles, we estimate would cost a total of $630,000 a year to the city.”

“We don’t have the resources for perks or conveniences and quite frankly, neither do our tax payers, to continue to subsidize this,” echoed councilman Pete Constant, a former police officer who acknowledged that using a patrol car for commute purposes was long a perk in the department.

“When you look at the aggregate of $1 million a year could be saved, nearly $1 million a year by restricting take home vehicles, that’s enough to put 5 police officers on the street,” he reasoned.

Officers defended their practice, arguing that having patrol cars on the street helped to deter crime.

“From my opinion, it’s completely unwarranted for anybody who lives in the Central Valley to be taking a vehicle home,” countered Constant.

Erickson and Constant agreed that some police cars should go home in case of emergency. However, there was substantial savings to be had if the 93 stayed in city garages, as Erickson recommended.

“And when we’re talking about the budget cuts that we’ve had over the last several years,” said Constant, “to me this is a no brainer.”

The audit was scheduled to go before the full City Council for consideration in November.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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