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Kids go shopping with cops in new Antioch squads

Antioch Police officers Zach Johns(left) Dawn Geraty (above right) help Destiny Cochran 7 Antioch (left center) Richard Panuncialman 8 Antioch

Antioch Police officers Zach Johnson (left) and Dawn Geraty (above right) help Destiny Cochran, 7, of Antioch (left center) and Richard Panuncialman, 8, of Antioch pick out some toys at the Wal-Mart in Antioch as part of the Antioch police Shop with a Cop event. They also had pizza at the police station and got to see Santa. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 7, 2012 1:34AM

ANTIOCH — The 100 kids who participated in “Shop with a Cop” on Wednesday traveled in style. They were transported in the police department’s new fleet of six squad cars and two SUVs.

The new fleet has a new look. The vehicles are black with silver-and-white lettering and they sport a silver star, a push bar mounted on the front bumper, LED light bars and additional flashing lights mounted behind the rear windshield.

“This is our new look that folks will see around town as we phase out our vehicles,” said Police Chief Craig Somerville. “They are the best-looking squad cars in the county. They are true police cars outfitted for police use.”

The squads are new Chevrolet Caprice PPVs, a vehicle designed for law enforcement use. The new vehicles are a first in that they were leased for $90,000 as a four-year package deal that includes a full warranty on the vehicles and equipment. Somerville is especially pleased that the low bidder on the purchase was local dealer Raymond Chevrolet.

“The savings to us in the long-haul will be great and the convenience of taking the vehicles for repair and maintenance to a local dealer is tremendous,” he said. “Overall, we got a great deal.”

Somerville said he has been contacted by law enforcement publications and other departments about the village’s new vehicle replacement program. “It’s turning into a prototype across the nation,” he said, crediting General Motors and local dealership president Mark Scarpelli with putting the program together.

“Typically, we put 200,000 hard miles on our squads within four years, and for the money to get vehicles designed and fully equipped for law enforcement, and be covered for maintenance for the life of the vehicles is fantastic,” said the chief.

Scarpelli said he was happy to put the deal together. “We saw a need and wanted to help and we are grateful that we were allowed to participate.”

“It was a great partnership,” said Village Trustee Dennis Crosby.

Antioch officers, dispatchers and kids age five to 12 visited Raymond Chevrolet on their way to the Antioch Wal-Mart to shop with $100 each after a pizza party and visit with Santa. Funding for Antioch’s program comes primarily from donations by local businesses, said Somerville.

Participants are from local families with limited resources, referred by Antioch School District 34.

“These kids might not otherwise have any money to shop for others and they might not receive anything themselves if not for this program,” said Somerville. “It’s heartwarming to see many of these children buying for others and not for themselves.

“Obviously the kids enjoy it, but so do the officers,” he added. “It’s a blessing. We see these folks in their daily travels in our jobs, but this allows us to be seen in more human terms. They often don’t see us that way. It’s a great bridge with people.”

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