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Utica about to get second 'Armadillo'

By WKTV News

UTICA, N.Y.(WKTV) Utica Common Councilman Jim Zecca was in Saratoga Springs in May along with Utica Mayor David Roefaro, Utica Police Chief Mark Williams and fellow Utica Common Council member Frank Vescera, as the city received a statewide award in Public Safety.

The New York State Conference of Mayors and Muncipal Officials, or NYCOM, awarded Utica first place in the 24th Annual Local Government Achievement Award in Public Safety for 'The Armadillo'.

The city purchased an old out of commission Brinks Armored Truck for $10.00 in 2010, and then had it entirely refurbished, including a decal that makes it look like an armadillo. It has been positioned in neighborhoods know to have drug problems.

Now, Zecca, who says the state-wide award was a great achievment for the city, says he is happy to hear a second Armadillo is about to be brought up from the Brinks in Binghamton for another $10.00. He says this vehicle will need a lot of work, but it will be well worth it, "it was involved in a flood down there in the summer and they've got their insurance money for the unit, but it's basically a brand new unit and it just needs some engine work, but they can't operate it and run it, so it need to be towed here or somehow transported here."

Zecca says city officials have been trying to figure out how to get it up here from Binghamton for the past two months and says this week, a local towing company announced it would donate its services to go get it. Zecca hopes for similar community support once it gets here, much like the city saw after the first Brinks truck arrived, "the first one, we had tremendous amounts of volunteerism. We had students from M.V.C.C. and the professor of the welding class, help repair the unit that we had. We had people donate other services. Mark Ford, who runs our Ski Chalet area, donated the skin on the armadillo that makes it look like an armadillo. We had the Crash brothers donate the foam in the tires to make the tires indestructible, so they can't be vandalized."

Zecca says the only cost to the city was less than $!7,000 to get the surveillance cameras installed.

The rather ominous looking vehicle has been parked outside of suspected drug houses in different parts of the city and Zecca says that has made a big difference. He says people who live in those neighborhoods have seen their quality of life increased. Leaders of the city's neighborhood associations couldn't agree more. Lucretia Hunt of the East Utica Concerned Citizens Block Association says the Armadillo is often a topic of discussion at her group's meetings held at the Sons of Italy Hall on Bleecker Street, "you know it has all of these surveillance cameras that see everything that goes on, and we need it. It's terrible that this is the situation that's happened, but we aren't the only city facing this." But Councilman Zecca says as far as he knows, Utica is the only city in New York State using the Armadillo technology. Zecca says he hopes to see the armored vehicle arrive in Utica in the coming days.

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