A helpful Armadillo

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors is considering purchasing a $50,000 Armadillo Crime Deterrence Vehicle to help reduce crime. County Administrative Officer Jon Stead’s proposal says the purpose of the Armadillo is to deter crime by recording activity near “habitual problem residences” or sections of a community. Stead told the Board of Supervisors the retrofitted military vehicle would be made available to all of the county’s police agencies. He also warned that if his plan is rejected by county supervisors, “crime and other nuisance activity such as vandalism will continue to escalate within neighborhoods in Fulton County.”

We think the Armadillo could be a valuable addition to law enforcement, if used properly. This vehicle could provide a useful deterrent or it could become an eyesore that embarrasses the community by overly highlighting its high-crime areas. Stead’s argument that crime is escalating may be overblown. The state Division of Criminal Justice Services shows reported property crimes in Fulton County have basically held steady since 2009. The most recent year’s numbers, 1,465 reported property crimes in 2013, was down from 1,507 reported property crimes in 2012, 1,544 in 2011 and 1,566 in 2010.

But, things could still improve. Fulton County’s property crime rate, which is a measure of property crimes relative to population, is too high, ranked in the top 10 among counties in New York state. If the Armadillo can help reduce that rate, it would be worth the $50,000, and supervisors should approve the proposal. Use of the vehicle, however, should be strictly monitored by the board, with annual reports made available to the public so its effectiveness can be gauged and reassessed over time.