NEW YORK -- Nationwide, some police departments are waiting months or even more than a year for a new car, and the production shortage is impacting departments in the Tri-State Area.
Stephen Mihok is a municipal Mister Fix-It -- the mechanic for the Village of Monroe in Orange County. From police cars to plow trucks, he patches up the problems.
"Just making sure it's ready to get back on the road," he said.
But there's nothing in the toolbox that can fix his biggest challenge -- needing new police cruisers.
"It's been pretty hard to get vehicles and get parts," Mihok said. "One was going to be on the auction block, but for right now, we're low on vehicles, so we're just putting a little bit of money into it so we can get it through the winter time."
Mihok says the issues started with a pandemic backlog -- a shortage of microchips hampering car production nationwide, and those chips are essential to the special features in police cars.
Consumers are still feeling the pinch, too, so Monroe Mayor Neil Dwyer says automakers aren't prioritizing police cars.
"We've got the money. We can't get the vehicles," he said. "We're a small agency. There are other agencies that have fleets that are looking for 20, 30, 40 vehicles and can't get them."
"It could cause a delayed response if the vehicle does break down, if the vehicle fails to start. It could also cause, as I mentioned, an officer not having the necessary equipment," Monroe Police Chief Darwin Guzman said.
Police cars are often equipped with extra features like emergency lights, computer mounts and the cage in the back. Law enforcement sources say that's one reason departments are having to wait months or longer.
Plainfield, New Jersey, police tell CBS New York they bought four police cruisers over a year ago and they're still on back order.
The mayor of Middletown, New York, says they're waiting on two, which they would've gotten almost immediately before COVID.
Departments are also finding the pricing of these cruisers is now sporadic and higher than expected.
"I tell all the manufacturers, once again, get this thing done. Our first responders are our first responders, and they need to be able to get out there when they need to go and not be delayed for any reason whatsoever," Dwyer said.
Back in Monroe, the village recently agreed to purchase the two new police cars. They're still waiting on one. The other just arrived this month, but they can't use it yet because they're still waiting on the special features.
"That now forces that officer to use a secondary vehicle," Guzman said.
They're now looking ahead to buy the vehicles they'll need next year, which they anticipate will be another challenge.
For now, Mihok will keep working, trying to keep up with an issue that extends far beyond his garage.
NYPD sources say they're feeling the pinch too, but the department is not facing a shortage just yet.
Ford tells us production of one of its popular police vehicles has resumed after the United Auto Workers strike brought it to a halt, and Stellantis says their police car production has gone up rapidly.
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