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Old 01-06-2003, 23:51   #1 (permalink)
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Police departments step up efforts to modify patrol cars

January 7, 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS

TRENTON, N.J. -- Several municipal police departments in New Jersey are stepping up their efforts to protect the gas tanks of their Crown Victoria patrol cars from exploding in high-speed, rear-end crashes.

The effort comes after a crash killed a New York state trooper last month. The trooper died when his parked cruiser was hit from behind by an out-of-control SUV and both cars burst into flames.

Some departments, such as Paramus, have already outfitted their cars with a shield that is designed to protect the gas tank from being punctured by shrapnel in a collision. The vehicles now come with the shield as standard equipment.

"We have highways here in Paramus with people traveling at high rates of speed," Tony Pigoncelli, who maintains the town's fleet of 102 Crown Victorias, told The Record of Bergen County for Monday's editions. "We want to have the safest police vehicle out there. That's my job."

While the New York crash prompted many departments to seek the shields, some officials said the process has been slow going, mostly due to delays in getting parts.

However, the municipal departments are not the only law enforcement agencies having the work done. More than half of the state police's fleet of nearly 1,000 Crown Victorias have been fitted with the shields, said state police Sgt. Kevin Rehmann.

Ford, the world's second-largest automobile manufacturer, is facing lawsuits from about two dozen municipalities throughout the country as a result of the tank explosions. The automaker has been distributing the shields free of charge to police departments since last year.
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