New DARE car has stereo, video games

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Some things naturally come in pairs: peanut butter and jelly, cops and doughnuts, and youngsters and their attraction to cool cars.

The last two pairs recently converged to bring about the acquisition of a new DARE car for the Cape Girardeau police. While DARE officer Jeffrey Bonham was working the past year raising money to replace the department's DARE vehicle, he approached Darlene Barnhart of Sam's Club for a donation. She suggested that they sell Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

"I said, 'I see where you're going with this,'" Bonham said, referring to police officers' reputed love for doughnuts. "It turned out to be a great fund raiser."

Several fund raisers, in addition to contributions from four local businesses, raised enough money to buy and equip a new Chevrolet Camaro worth about $25,000. It is a fully equipped police car and is Bonham's assigned patrol car.

It's also cool enough to impress young students with its T-top, stereo system, television, PlayStation and Corvette engine. Bonham quipped that he's thinking about keeping a pad of tickets near the console so he can cite himself for violating the city's noise ordinance with the car's stereo system.

"It's a pretty top-notch car," he said. "This car is made for the students. It builds a positive relationship between me and the kids."

The car's cost was covered by donations, not city funds. Coad Chevrolet donated half the cost; the fund raisers picked up the balance. Auto Trim provided the distinctive graphics. JCS/Tel-Link and MTX donated the radio, lights, siren, stereo, speakers and television, as well as the labor.

Police say DARE vehicles are a way of capturing young people's interest so officers can reach them.

Since DARE was introduced into the city's elementary schools in 1990, said police chief Steve Strong, Cape Girardeau, like most communities, assigned the DARE officer a car that was considered not reliable enough for patrol -- and not cool enough to break barriers between the police and the young people who are the target of DARE's message of staying away from drugs.

"We now have a DARE car our department and the community it serves can be proud of," he said.

Mayor Jay Knudtson said the generosity of the businesses who made the car possible is an extension of the generosity the community showed when it voted for the sales tax to support the police and fire departments.

"This is a neat addition to the momentum," he said. "One of our officers went out and spent countless hours asking for money, and when he did the money was given freely."

Strong said that because Bonham sold six pallets' worth of doughnuts that Krispy Kreme now believes that there's enough of a market in Cape Girardeau to open a franchise.

The car will be displayed to the public Aug. 14 at Coad Chevrolet.

335-6611, extension 160

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