AIKEN - Aiken public safety officers already use cars, trucks, horses and bikes to travel around the All-American City. Now, they've added a souped-up golf car to the mix.
With federal grant money, the Aiken Department of Public Safety has outfitted a small utility vehicle to help maneuver through parking lots and assist at events such as the Triple Crown and Aiken's Makin'.
The gas-powered vehicle resembles a golf car and has a small bed on the back to carry equipment and transport injured persons. The four-wheeler is raised higher off the ground than a typical golf car, allowing it to climb over sidewalks and curbs.
The police vehicle is complete with red and blue lights and a foot-activated horn that seems to scream "Get out of the way!!"
Capt. Tom Galardi said his department has wanted the vehicle for years to use in possible medical emergencies at special events.
"What do we do if something does happen? It gets to be an issue when you have a large crowd like Aiken's Makin', and you have (10,000) or 15,000 people downtown, and we are blocking off streets, and its clogged, and you are trying to get an ambulance to them or get the people out to the ambulance," Capt. Galardi said. "Anytime you do something like that and you are talking about something like a heart attack or a stroke, every minute is crucial."
First-aid equipment, an oxygen bottle, an electronic defibrillator and a fire extinguisher will be carried on the unit. That could help at an event such as Aiken's Makin', where in the past public safety officers have responded to people with heat exhaustion, twisted ankles and heart attacks and to diabetics who felt faint.
The vehicle also will be used for patrolling parking lots and carrying loads during neighborhood cleanups.
Money to purchase the vehicle came from the local law enforcement block grant program run by the U.S. Department of Justice, which awards money annually to agencies based on their level of violent crimes.
The Aiken Department of Public Safety also purchased technical surveillance equipment and an alternative light source, which is used at crime scenes to detect drops of blood and other bodily fluids.
"It is some things we probably would not be able to purchase in the general budget," Capt. Galardi said. "But it is something that will help us keep a step ahead."
Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 648-1395.