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Charging up the DU security vehicle fleet

Photo: Taylor Soule

Students have been seeing security personnel driving around in Dodge Chargers. Ongoing tuition hikes are leaving students wondering exactly where our money is going.

Drake security is in charge of keeping the campus safe — that includes everything from returning lost wallets, to locking the buildings at night and to patrolling the surrounding neighborhoods. They even had an incident back in February that required supervisor Mark Risvold to chase a pig through a parking lot near campus.

The security guards are here for the students and can be quickly and easily reached at any time of the day by calling the emergency number from any of the blue light posts around campus. They are always present, cruising around in their little carts as the buildings of Drake lock up for the night.

The Times-Delphic stopped in the security office to talk with an officer right as the power went out throughout the city on Tuesday. In between checking the monitors and answering several phones ringing off the hook, officer Dustin Runge sat down to explain the new vehicles around campus.

Drake security only drives three cars, and the rest are sidewalk carts. These cars are given to the higher-up administrators, like the chief, assistant chief and supervisor.

Runge has heard several times how surprising it is that the fleet is so small, and he shrugs it off with a laugh, pointing out that it’s more advantageous to have people think the security force is bigger than it actually is. The vehicles used to be 2003 Dodge Durangos, but those were traded in for a 2008 Ford Escape, a 2011 Ford Escape and a 2010 Dodge Charger. The cars are replaced every two years. Some fiscally-minded students question why the cars need to be replaced so frequently. Runge counters that the cars each total about 100,000 miles every year, so they have to be swapped out on a regular basis to avoid losing money through repair costs.

It’s important to note that after security is done with the vehicles, like the old Durangos, they are repurposed for the maintenance department. The new cars for the security department are always bought used, and they are always the baseline models with few to no additional features. Because of all of the surveillance technology and equipment that has to fit inside each car on the force, ordinary civilian vehicles cannot be used. The officers have limited options for cars that can be adapted to security duties and can deal with infamous Iowa winters.

Other than the carts seen around campus, there are only three vehicles used by the security force. The money for the vehicles does not come out of student tuition. Runge said that there is a separate fund set aside by the university for security purposes, and it comes out of that budget.

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1 Comment

  1. Officer Dustin Runge May 3, 2012

    Our department has a very minimal budget. We do everything in our power to keep expenses down. For the past six years we have rotated the Chevy Impala and Durango. It was decided this year to change from Impala to Charger. The Impalas don’t hold up well. The vehicles are ran 24 hours a day 365 days a year. We use mobile patrol as a deterant to keep unwanted guests off campus, and respond to thousands of service/emergency calls every school year. It is a much needed tool for our daily functions.

    Dodge Chargers are designed for law enforcement and public safety applications. Our vehicles contain radios, dash cameras, emergency lighting, and public address systems. The equipment requires a center console only compatible with standard law enforcement vehicles such as the Charger, Crown Victoria, and Impala. With our experience using Chevy Impalas and Ford stopping the manufacturing of Crown Victoria, we decided to go with the Charger. We also made a decision to have our equipment installed in house instead of using outside contractors. This move was also made to reduce vehicle expenses.

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