COBB COUNTY, Ga. - Police officers are using your tax dollars to go back and forth to work, but police departments say they're actually saving you money.
Nearly every week, 11Alive viewer Leilla Wedhorn says she visits yard sales around Paulding, Polk, and Cobb Counties. On more than one occasion she's seen police vehicles parked at homes out of their jurisdiction. It puzzled her so much she snapped pictures and sent them to 11Alive News.
"I'm just wondering why they're coming from other counties," said Wedhorn. "The way they raise your taxes I wouldn't think people would be too happy about it."
Wedhorn's camera captured two police vehicles parked in front of homes that were not only outside of the cities they patrol, they weren't even in the same county. She found Marietta police vehicle parked at a home in Paulding County. In the same neighborhood she found a Smyrna police vehicle.
11Alive News followed up on her tip and found the same cars parked in front of the same homes.
It is not uncommon for law enforcement agencies around Georgia to allow officers to take their taxpayer funded vehicles home.
In Marietta, only certain "on call" officers are allowed to take vehicles home. In Smyrna, all sworn officers are provided take home vehicles. Both departments insist taxpayers are saving.
"The longevity of these cars is almost tripled by an officer taking it home as opposed to it being used 24-hours a day by three separate officers," said Marietta Police spokesperson David Baldwin.
Officers in both Marietta and Smyrna can take their vehicles home to areas outside of their towns, even their counties. Both departments have similar policies that restrict how far officers can travel home in their taxpayer funded vehicles. In Marietta, officers can travel no further than 25 miles from police headquarters. In Smyrna, the restriction is a 25 mile radius from the center of town.
The Marietta police vehicle spotted by Leilla Wedhorn was about 17 miles from the police department. The Smyrna police car, although in Paulding County, was about 20 miles from downtown Smyrna.
"We did have to increase the size of our fleet," said Smyrna police spokesperson Officer Michael Smith. "But costs dropped dramatically after that. The cars are better cared for."
Officers are also restrictions on how the vehicles are used during non-working hours.
"If an officer uses it for personal gain or if they go outside of that 25 mile radius, they're going to be subject to disciplinary action," said Officer Smith. "We would rely on the public or other means to let us know."
Both departments say take home cars increase visibility and allow officers to respond to emergencies quicker.