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Armored vehicle to assist local responders in war on terrorism

April 12, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

Washington County Special Response Team members flanked the sides of the team's new armored rescue vehicle Tuesday, unveiling the Homeland Security grant-funded purchase during a ceremony at the Sheriff's Department.

"Public safety and public health is fundamentally what Homeland Security is all about ... The only way we're going to win the war on terror is to empower the local jurisdictions," Dennis R. Schrader, Maryland director of Homeland Security, said as he addressed team members, Washington County Commissioners, Hagerstown officials and others at the department's headquarters.

The Lenco Bearcat armored rescue vehicle cost $201,282 - all of which was covered by a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant. The grant was filtered through the state Homeland Security Program and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, said Kevin C. Reigrut, state Homeland Security Planning & Policy Development manager.

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Hagerstown Police Department Sgt. Mark Holtzman, one of the team's leaders, said, "With this equipment, we're equal with the best teams around. It just improves our mobility."

Formed seven years ago, the county's Special Response Team - which is made up of Hagerstown Police Department officers, Washington County Sheriff's Department deputies and civilian tactical medics - executes high-risk search and seizure warrants, performs high-risk surveillance, handles barricade and hostage situations, and performs other security work, said Hagerstown Police Department Lt. Mike King, the team commander.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the board decided to allot the grant money for the vehicle because the team had been using an Army surplus vehicle that required too much upkeep and was unreliable.

Holtzman said the Lenco Bearcat will be able to maneuver in small streets or country roads.

With the armored vehicle, citizens will have a higher level of safety and security, Snook said.

King said, "It gives us an option when we're presented with a problem."

The bulletproof vehicle would enable team members to get to a victim or victims who are under gunfire and get them out of harm's way and would enable the safe transfer of the team into a hazardous situation, Hagerstown Police Department Capt. Charles Summers said.

"We hope we never have to use it," said Snook, who likened the purchase to buying an insurance policy.

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