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Offer may help mount horse patrol in Greensboro

By Amanda Lehmert

GREENSBORO, NC — Downtown could soon be filled with the clippity-clop of metal shoes.

The board of the nonprofit Downtown Greensboro Inc. has agreed to chip in $25,000 a year toward a horse-mounted patrol unit for the city center. The contribution would allow Greensboro to add a new service they wouldn't otherwise be able to fund, City Manager Mitchell Johnson said.

The city's share of the startup costs might be $250,000, according to one estimate. But some of the costs, such as the purchase of the horses, can be paid for with federal forfeiture funds, city officials said.

"For downtown and crowd control type environments, horse-mounted officers are very effective," Johnson said. "People can see them and there is an impact."

City and police officials studied the idea of adding horses to the police department two years ago.

Officers from Fayetteville's mounted unit came to Greensboro to demonstrate how they could make arrests and do other police work, such as nabbing speeders, on horseback.

Greensboro leaders were impressed by what they saw.

Ed Wolverton, president of Downtown Greensboro Inc., said research shows a horse-mounted officer can do the work of several officers.

"The horses, because of their height, elevate the officers to a better vantage point so they can see and scan the area much better," Wolverton said. "They can literally see a couple of blocks because they are up so high."

Despite the good reviews, Johnson said the city didn't have the money to pay for horses.

"It's really hard for us in tough economic times to justify the ongoing maintenance expense," he said.

This month, the Downtown Greensboro Inc. board of directors offered an ongoing contribution to pay for upkeep of the horses, including veterinary bills.

The money would come out of the special assessments on property owners in the downtown business improvement district, Wolverton said.
 
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