Opinions mixed on new armored vehicle in Marin Co.

February 15, 2013 6:32:30 PM PST
The Marin County Sheriff's Department is buying an armored vehicle for use in response to everything from terrorism to snipers, but is it a wise use of Homeland Security funding or a waste of money? Not everyone in the county agrees.

The Bearcat G3 rescue vehicle from Lenco Armored Vehicles can withstand explosive blasts and .50-caliber gunfire, but can it take an assault from Marin County Residents who are opposed to spending the $370,000 it costs to buy it?

Critics think the sheriff's purchase is overkill in a county where there's never been a roadside bomb and they think the money could be put to better use, but the sheriff and supervisors say not a dime of county general fund money is being used. It's mostly a Homeland Security grant paid with federal taxes.

As for need, Marin County Supervisor Judy Arnold says, "This can be used region-wide. So for example, we know that the Golden Gate Bridge and the oil refinery in Richmond are targets for terrorism. In such an instance, we have this now to help them."

Arnold says Marin will join 66 other California counties with similar vehicles. In August 2011, in San Rafael, a sniper in a hotel shooting onto I-580 caused the freeway to be closed for 18 hours. Arnold thinks that might have ended sooner if they'd had the Bearcat and it would be helpful in scenarios like the Aurora and Newtown shootings. "Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut were sleepy suburbs too where nothing had ever happened. So, you never know," she said.

Attorney Owen Stephenson's office is near the Civic Center. He and his wife were longtime Marin residents. He sees no problem with the purchase of the Bearcat. "There's plenty of money in the Homeland Security and to use it in a local community would be very good because much of it is being used in borders and other areas," he said.

The truck is being built for Marin now and should be delivered in a matter of months.


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