Smithfield, N.C. — The Smithfield Police Department is running out of gas.
Higher fuel costs and a shrinking budget mean the department could be forced to cut patrols and services because it can't afford to fill up the gas tanks in its cruisers, said Chief Michael Scott. Funds could run out as soon as February.
The news was unwelcome to town residents who count on officers to keep them safe.
"I feel like I live in a safe neighborhood and there's not much crime here, but (it's) always a concern without police on the streets," said resident Christian Waters. "It's always a comfort to see them patrol through the neighborhood."
Scott plans to ask the town council on Tuesday to allow the department to re-purpose about $30,000 in other funds to pay for gas. If they don't approve his plan, Scott said, it could mean the department will stop answering hang-up 911 calls, cease random patrols in the west and south sides of town and respond to nonviolent crimes by telephone before heading out in person.
Smithfield Mayor Daniel Evans said the safety of citizens comes first and he will recommend that the council approve the funding.
"We will have money. That's something I want to reassure the citizens of Smithfield and any businesses," Evans said.
The town is looking at all possible cost-cutting measures and ways to save on gas, Evans added.
Tuesday's council meeting starts at 7 p.m. at Smithfield Town Hall.