NZ's thin blue line slightly dented
The number of police cars involved in accidents has dropped by nearly a third in the past year, but has still cost the taxpayer nearly $2 million in vehicle repairs or replacements.
The latest figures, released by police under the Official Information Act, show that in the 10 months since June last year 838 crashes involving police occurred - on track to drop nearly 30 per cent from the year before.
More than $1.8 million had been spent on repair costs and replacement costs in the past 10 months.
"The figures are reasonable given the size of the police fleet and that these vehicles collectively cover more than 91m km every year across a diverse range of activities that civilian vehicles typically do not," spokesman Ross Henderson said.
There are close to 3200 vehicles in the police fleet.
In April a police car was written off after crashing into a power pole during a chase in North Taranaki. Speeds of more than 170km were reached.
That crash was investigated by the Serious Crash Unit and in another incident in December last year, a Christchurch driver did nearly $16,000 worth of damage as he lead multiple police cars on a chase through the city.
The damage included causing a police car to drive into a brick wall, and another to blow out a tyre. Two other police vehicles had to eventually be used in an attempt at a "moving block" to force one of the cars to a standstill, however it still got away.
Robert Weater McDonald, 36, was eventually caught and given a prison sentence of 20 months as well as being ordered to pay reparations of $5900 as part of the $11,967 damage done to five patrol cars, fences, the stolen car he was driving and a power pole.
Henderson said a vehicle incident could involve anything from a minor scratch to a vehicle being fully written off.
"This is because police require that every instance of damage is reported."
The figures showed that in the 10 months to April, of the 838 recorded incidents, at least 10 cars were written off with the cost of replacement totalling $401,879. A further 641 required repairs, costing more than $1.4 million.
Police were unable to give details for the last two months of last financial year.
On average police cars have been involved in just over two crashes every day - down on the 2010-11 year's average of just over three.
In the past three financial years, more than $7.6 million has been spent on either fixing or replacing vehicles within the police fleet.
Henderson said the total cost of repairs alone in the last period was tracking within budget, which was $1.6 million. The total annual budget for 2011-12 was $1.9 million he said.
In all instances where vehicle repairs or replacement was required as a result of someone else's actions, Henderson said police would seek reimbursement via their insurers or court-ordered reparations.
BY THE NUMBERS
* 838 crashes involving police cars between June 2011 and April 2012
* 76 crashes related to police chases between July 2011 and April 2012
* 10 police cars written off in the last financial year
* $7.6 million to replace or repair damaged police cars since 2009
- © Fairfax NZ News
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