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Patrol car decals aim to boost visibility, safety
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A Gainesville police unit cruises down Prior Street with the new neon bumper graphics. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Residents may have noticed that the Gainesville Police Department is boasting a more visible presence in the community.

“The colors and design of the decals do catch your attention,” said Gainesville City Solicitor John Breakfield. “Hopefully, they will help drivers give officers the room they need to work.”

At a cost of roughly $60 per car, about 80 patrol vehicles have been outfitted with neon chevron bumper stickers, bringing the total to a little under $5,000.

Any associated sticker shock of the project is outweighed by what it could mean for officer safety, said police spokesman Cpl. Kevin Holbrook.

“The costs associated with this project are minimal, especially when you compare it to saving lives,” he said.

Holbrook said there hasn’t been a specific recent event to prompt the new accessory for vehicles; rather, it’s a proactive move.

“We have not had any events to prompt this; we always try to be a proactive and progressive agency,” he said.

“We try to stay out front and stay abreast of new innovative ways that can change the way in which we serve and protect.

“It is important that we not only serve and protect our citizens, but our officers and employees as well.”

Holbrook said that the cars that will receive the stickers are in the Operations Bureau, including “front line” cars like patrol, K-9, traffic and specialized services.

But if seeing a police car earlier means putting on that seat belt, hastily ending a text message or hitting the breaks, so be it. Their enforcement role has still been accomplished, Holbrook said.

“We look for voluntary compliance of laws, so if that makes us more noticeable, it makes us more visual to the public, then we’d much rather have voluntary compliance of the laws,” he said.

In a news release, police said that studies had shown the fluorescent colors improved traffic outcomes. Breakfield said that following too closely is the No. 1 factor for collisions in the city.

While they stressed reduction of rear collisions in the announcement, Holbrook said the message goes “hand-in-hand” with reminding drivers to comply with the Move Over Law, which says drivers must change lanes when possible to give emergency vehicles on the side of the road more space.

“We do stress and emphasize compliance with the Move Over Law to protect all public safety officials,” Holbrook said.

Both Holbrook and Breakfield noted an officer injury from a few years back.

“Gainesville knows, firsthand, the importance of the Move Over Law,” Breakfield said. “A few years ago, a traffic officer was struck by a car while conducting a traffic stop.

“Anything that can assist a motorist in seeing a law enforcement officer is a good thing.”