NYPD warns damage to police vehicles during protests could hamper response

UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- Police are still searching for the vandal or vandals who set an NYPD squad car on fire on the Upper West Side this week, but the damage to the vehicle might have been worse if not for protections put in place to make police vehicles tougher than your average street car.

Fortunately, no one was in the car and no injuries were reported. But the damage to NYPD automobiles is nothing new as of late.

Broken windshields, shredded tires and fire damage are just some examples of the wreckage left behind by eight weeks of anti-police protests across New York City, with cruisers, vans and SUVs vandalized or torched.
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Video shows the suspect smashing the window of a police van using what appears to be a protest sign.

"This interior was totally gutted, burnt out," said Ray Martinez, NYPD Deputy Commissioner/Fleet Services Division. "These two vans that we're standing between here are totally burnt. These were vehicles that probably had a few more years of lifecycle, and now, they have ended their lifecycle."

The damage has cost the NYPD nearly $1 million and counting.

NYPD officials believe the demonstrations are undergoing a resurgence, organized by more confrontational leaders determined to take their protests to a higher level.

More than 300 vehicles have been damaged or destroyed since the protests began, and it's gotten bad enough that officers have been instructed not to leave their cars unattended at or near protests.

Related: Upper West Side NYPD cruiser fire deemed suspicious after window broken
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The cruiser was burned one block from the 20th police precinct.

The NYPD's team of 180 mechanics are now backlogged, trying to make repairs.

"We had a bunch of vans come in the other day, full of graffiti, tires blown-out, broken windows," Vartan Khachadurian said. "And then they just work together, in unison, to get that vehicle back up just to keep the public safe."

With more cars vandalized and fewer dollars to repair or replace them, there will be fewer patrols in a city where crime is on the rise.

"This is going to directly impact patrol force," Martinez said, "And units like CRC and SRG, which is Critical Response Groups or Strategic Response Groups, and many other citywide groups, won't be able to respond now to these vehicles being condemned early."

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