HARTFORD, CT – City of Hartford Police officers will have to stick with their older, higher-mileage cars when cash-strapped communities stop buying new ones, according to The Hartford Courant.

Facing huge budget gaps, officials in some towns and cities have decided to cut back or suspend their regular fleet-replacement schedules. The actions cover everything from dump trucks to street-sweepers, but replacement freezes can be especially punishing on police fleets, where heavy-duty, 24-7 driving burns through patrol cars quickly.

Police commanders said the cutbacks won't affect safety next year, but they'll have to work harder at keeping current cars on the road. Some departments are beefing up repair budgets, delaying delivery of new cruisers and encouraging patrol officers to go easy on their cars.

The department's oldest cruisers will go to detectives and administrators.

City police postponed delivery of eight new cars in the 2008 fiscal year's budget by several months to get more mileage from the current fleet. Police can go a year without replacement cars, but keeping the older ones longer will mean extra maintenance and repair costs, Lt. Kevin Morrell noted.

New cruisers run about $21,000 to $25,000, depending on the model and how much extra equipment is ordered. Typically after one to three years in regular patrol service, they become reserves or they're assigned to lighter duty with school resource officers and court officers. Eventually, police sell them to car-auction companies or turn them back to the city for the engineering or public works departments to use.

Hartford, which has been under budget pressure for several years, has struggled more than most cities to keep its fleet modern. City leaders have not declared a freeze on buying cars next year, but have laid off workers this year as the city faces the start of an uncommonly tough budget-setting season.