After starting the engine of a vehicle which once transported sick and injured people, Lt. Marcus Smith went to the back and sat near a miniature command post with phones and radio equipment.
“We can pretty much talk to everyone in the state right here,” Smith said referring to his colleagues at the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office.
The new command post and multipurpose vehicle will also make things easier for deputies when they travel to different locations throughout the county. Smith said the department realized that in a ever-changing world, a lot of equipment is required for the job. Equipment, especially for the investigators, is dispersed among nine people, which results in equipment being divided in different vehicles.
“We knew that we needed a multipurpose vehicle to bring all of that equipment into one vehicle,” Smith said. “We can just grab anything we needed to process the crime scene from that one vehicle.”
The vehicle is already paying off. It was used during previous incidents and can be used for drug raids, checkpoints and to transport a group of deputies.
Capt. Eric Pope said Sampson County has a large command post, however some of the area locations are not feasible for the large vehicle. So the smaller vehicle will be more useful in tight spaces such as trailer parks or fields.
“It’s smaller and a little bit more agile,” Pope said. “You have a place to interview people if you need to.”
Pope said one of the problems during previous crime scenes was inclement weather, especially in the summer when a thunderstorm may show up.
“You needed to have capabilities to process evidence on the scene in a timely manner and have a work station where you can do it at,” Pope said. “Before, they had to work out of the trunks of their cars.”
But now, Pope said deputies can place evidence in the back of the truck and technicians can start work. In the process, the evidence is out of the weather and preserved a little better.
Some of the equipment includes tents, expandable ladders, plastic bags, gloves, bio-hazard suits, marking paint and traffic vests. No weapons or chemicals are kept inside the vehicle. Outside the vehicle, compartments contain power tools and other implements for the deputies.
“There’s no way you can store this stuff in a car,” Pope said. “It’s just too bulky.”
Another highlight is LED scene lights, which may brighten up large spaces of land at night. It also has portable lights, which can be activated by an interior outlet.
“You wouldn’t believe how bright those lights are,” he said about the exterior lighting devices. “They are super bright.”
Officials described it as a multi-service vehicle a one-stop shop for deputies during crime scenes. He also noted how the vehicle is convenient to utilize in situations and that Sampson County is not all paved, with some areas lack street lights and sidewalks.
“We have a lot of rural area in this county that we cover and sometimes that’s versatile and can go about anywhere down wooded paths or throughout the community,” Smith said.
The department purchased the used vehicle from Elizabethtown Rescue after searching for old ambulances from local agencies such as Emergency Management. It was in good shape and had been kept in a bay since Elizabethtown officials purchased it.
“The only thing we had to do is put a little bit of elbow grease into it,” Smith said.
A purchase was made using seized drug money in the department.
“The taxpayers are not out one penny in the purchase of this vehicle,” Smith said about using less than $6,000.
Next, inmates with non-violent offenses assisted with taking stripes off the vehicle and sanding it before it was painted. Smith said a lot of the inmates had automotive experience.
“The trustees did a remarkable job and worked really hard on it,” Smith said. “They took a lot of pride in making sure it was right.”
An anonymous community member donated paint and materials, which saved the department about $2,000. Thornton’s Body Shop donated time and labor to paint the vehicle. After the labor, it was stocked with equipment. At that point, lights and decal striping were attached to the new vehicle.
Smith and other sheriff’s office officials are looking forward to the convenience that the vehicle will provide.
“Its going to make things more timely because we don’t have to track down equipment we use in the field,” Smith said. “It’s all in one place, so it’s going to essentially make the process a lot smoother and give us more resources at hand at one time.”