The Rincon Police Department has a new set of wheels — one that can access areas standard police cars can’t.
The department now owns a utility task vehicle, or UTV, an off-road four-wheeler that can accommodate more people and heavier loads than an ATV.
“We can use it for any special mission that we have,” said Rincon Police Chief Phillip Scholl.
Most importantly, Scholl said, the vehicle can be used in search and rescue efforts anywhere in the county, to look for a missing person or render aid to someone needing medical assistance. Officers can drive the UTV along rough terrain, near bodies of water or into remote areas that other emergency vehicles are unable to reach.
“The search and rescue is probably going to be one of the highlights of it,” he said. “We’ve now got another means of mobility.”
The department’s new addition also will come in handy at special events such as parades, Oktoberfest and Freedom Rings in Rincon.
“We can move around pedestrian traffic without having to worry about a car,” Scholl explained. “If you have a lost child at one of these events, you can get them to our command center (quickly).”
The city of Rincon spent about $16,000 for the vehicle, using special purpose local option sales tax funds. The city accepted a bid from Dal-Kawa of Hendersonville, N.C., a company Scholl said specializes in UTVs for government use.
The vehicle has a bench seat for two officers up front and is fully equipped with blue lights, a siren, heater, removable doors and a front-end winch. The sidewalls can be expanded or collapsed to allow for second-row seating or an extended cargo bed.
“We got everything we wanted in it,” Scholl said. “They dropped it off, and we were good to go.”
The heater and fully-enclosable cab will come in handy if officers use the vehicle for the Rincon Police Department’s “jingle bell patrol” at Christmas time. The UTV would be an efficient mode of transportation for conducting holiday-season checks at businesses that are located near each other, Scholl said.
In the warmer months, a need could arise for the vehicle to respond to the city-owned Lost Plantation Golf Course or other recreation areas such as Macomber Ballpark or Giles Park.
“Those may be areas you can’t get a car, like in-between the fields, but you can get this in there,” Scholl said. “You may not want to take a police car down the fairways at the golf course, but you can take this down there.”
An increasing number of law enforcement agencies are adding UTVs to their vehicle fleet. For example, Scholl said, Tybee Island has one to help with its beach patrols.
Scholl had no way to estimate how many times the utility task vehicle will be used in a given year. However, no limitations have been placed on the police department’s usage of it.
“There’s always a need. There’s always a practical use for it,” Scholl said.