Abbotsford Police unveil transformed Hummer for anti-gang messaging

The Abbotsford Police Department (APD) is taking its anti-gang messaging on the road – literally.
The APD unveiled its newest project today in its battle to turn young people away from the gang lifestyle. Operation Reclamation involved transforming a sand-coloured 2004 Hummer H2 into a vehicle sporting the APD's black-and-white theme, police lights, and a "skin" of graphics and messages.
The vehicle was property forfeited to the province after a Victoria man was convicted of drug trafficking and weapons offences.
Const. Ian MacDonald said the Hummer is being loaned to the APD for two years. It is the first time forfeited property – which is usually sold – is being used to directly to support crime prevention in B.C.
The initiative was the brainchild of Sgt. Mike Novakowski, who also created the APD's Operation Impact, Tarnish, Veritas and Lodestar programs.
Novakowski said police in the U.S. are able to retain forfeited property for their own purposes, and that led him to imagine what the APD could do if they had the same option.
The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General was contacted to see what could be arranged. The forfeiture of the Hummer took place at around the same time.
Once the vehicle was in the APD's possession, work began on the makeover, estimated to cost about $3,000.
The Hummer now sports messages such as "This vehicle was seized from a drug trafficker," "Easy money can get you hard time," and "Plan your future, not your funeral."
The graphics used come from previous "Operation" poster campaigns.
"It's a rolling billboard," Novakowski said of the Hummer.
The SUV will now be driven around town and used at presentations and community events.
"We're trying to demonstrate to youth, and others in the community, that things that are used for evil can also be used for good," MacDonald said.
He said the vehicle also sends a message to gangsters – that their criminal activities might not only land them to jail, but can result in the loss of the possessions that attract them to the lifestyle in the first place.
The Hummer was unveiled yesterday afternoon during a presentation at Thunderbird Square in Abbotsford.
"Through a unique agreement, we are providing this SUV to help the department illustrate the high costs of choosing a criminal lifestyle," said Solicitor General Rich Coleman.
Police Chief Bob Rich said the initiative will help the APD "reinforce messages about everything you risk when you choose to be gang-invovled."
The provincial government has seized 24 vehicles since 2006, and all but three had links to drug trafficking or illegal weapons.
Property forfeited to the province in the last five years is valued at approximately $15 million, including more than $5.3 million in 2010.

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