Small Town With Hardly Any Crime Given A War Tank

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
Font Size:

Spring Grove, Ill. has 5,800 residents, 14 employees at its police department, virtually no crime and, now, a military vehicle designed to withstand mine explosions in war zones.

The small village, located near the Wisconsin border, was granted a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle, or an MRAP, as part of the 1033 government program that gives surplus military supplies to local police agencies, the Northwest Herald reports.

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have wound down, the Department of Defense has used the 1033 program to distribute a large surplus of MRAPs and other supplies — including anything from guns, ammunition, computers, blankets and filing cabinets — to hundreds of county and local police agencies.

While the armored vehicles are valued at between $535,000 and $733,000 and weigh at least 14 tons, cities and towns are able to obtain them at no direct cost. Spring Grove’s main expense was the $4,000 it paid to transport the MRAP from Texas, though the funds were drawn from an asset forfeiture program.

It is unclear under what circumstances Spring Grove will use its MRAP. McHenry County, where Spring Grove is located, recently received its own vehicle as well. According to the Northwest Herald, the county uses its vehicle around once per month.

According to FBI statistics, Spring Grove had two violent crimes in 2011 and one in 2012. It was also rated one of the top 50 safest cities in Illinois, according to SafeWise, the Northwest Herald reported.

Despite little crime to speak of, Spring Grove police chief Tom Sanders says that threats exist that make the MRAP desirable.

“The problem is that there is all kinds of violence going on, and I think we have to be prepared for it,” he told the Northwest Herald. “They made [a MRAP] available to us. It’s great piece of equipment. My hope is that we never have to use it.”

Reached by The Daily Caller, Sanders said that his department has 14 full- and part-time officers and staff. His department will also share its MRAP with other agencies that might need it.

“We have every intention to make it available to other agencies and as a back up to the Sheriff’s Office tactical team in the event that theirs is unavailable,” he said.

Despite the great deal, the program has met resistance from some who think that the military machines erode public trust and contribute to the “militarization” of local police agencies.

“The notion that a small police force needs to have this kind of overwhelming firepower to use against its citizenry distances people from the police force that is supposed to protect the citizenry,” Ed Yohnka of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois told the Northwest Herald.

“I don’t mean to be flippant, but once you have a tool that’s in your arsenal, you are more likely to use it. It’s the old line — once you have a hammer, you start seeing everything as a nail,” Yohnka said.

Follow Chuck on Twitter