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Small-town cops get bomb-resistant war truck

There were two murders in Farmington, N.M., in 2011, down from three in 2010. And there were 73 rapes and 40 robberies. Ten arsons and 93 auto thefts also were reported by a crime data website.

Think those figures might drop now that the police department is equipped with a new explosive resistant and highly intimidating war machine called an MRAP, a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle that withstands bullets and bombs and is not slowed by water or fire?

Local police believe it might help.

“You roll up in front of somebody’s house in that, and it gets their attention,” said Farmington police Cmdr. Cliff Washburn in a report in the local Daily-Times.

“We’ll take it everywhere we go.”

The report says the town of about 45,000 on the high desert plateau of New Mexico gets about one SWAT team call per month.

Often the call is for barricaded suspects, hostage situations or high-risk arrest warrants.

The new tool is a truck about 14 feet tall weighing about 45,000 pounds. It was handed over to the city police department for $3,000 after the federal government spent $600,000 building the unit, one of some 24,000 made for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Washburn told the Daily-Times it also can respond to fires and floods.

The newspaper explained that as the U.S. military draws down its overseas combat operations, the equipment created to protect soldiers from the roadside bombs and grenades of terrorists is being released to municipalities and other jurisdictions.

Washburn told the newspaper the equipment and the accompanying military-style training is good for the community, because it helps bring volatile situations under control.

“Traditionally, when the SWAT team arrives, the situations tend to de-escalate,” he said.

The paper noted that while the local American Civil Liberties Union believes officers should have the tools they need, spokesman Micah McCoy said, “I think we need to question when we use military weapons, tactics and equipment to police a community.”

Farmington is the biggest town in the state’s remote San Juan County, serving as an economic hub for northwestern New Mexico.

Its economy is based on petroleum, natural gas and coal, and the city is known for its baseball tournaments. Its Ricketts Ball Park is home to the Connie Mack World Series for youth baseball.

The online crime report notes that in most categories, Farmington is above the national average, and it  has significantly more crime than the nearby cities of Bloomfield and Aztec in New Mexico and the Colorado cities of Ignacio, Mancos, Durango, Cortez and Bayfield.