Florida Law Enforcement Increasing Undercover Muscle Car Use To Catch Reckless Drivers

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You had better think twice before practicing risky driving behavior in the Sunshine State.

Law enforcement officials in Florida have turned to muscle cars to help fight the scourge of speeding and reckless driving in the state, reports 10 Tampa Bay.

Unmarked vehicles like the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro are instrumental in bringing offenders to book, providing officers with a stealthier vehicle to catch bad drivers. Sergeant Michael Schade of the St. Petersburg Police Department (SPPD) told the news outlet these vehicles allow police to catch motorists who think there are no officers around.

"They're driving thinking an officer isn't in the area. By having a vehicle like this, we're able to curb that type of activity," said Schade.

The Mustang is the only unmarked muscle car in the SPPD fleet, but there are plans to add more vehicles shortly.


In nearby Hillsborough County, there are nearly a dozen unmarked Dodge Challengers with V6 engines. The sheriff's office started patrolling the streets with inconspicuous muscle cars back in 2019 when it purchased nondescript Chevy Camaros.

Corporal Donald Rizer said this allows police officers to witness illegal behavior that wouldn't happen in the presence of a marked police cruiser.

"We went a little outside the box," said Rizer. "This helps us be in a situation where we can witness things when you're like, 'where's the cop when you need one,' well I might be right beside you."

While this sounds like a brilliant way to capture criminals when they least expect it, there are several concerns surrounding the use of unmarked vehicles.

2015-2023 Dodge Challenger SXT / GT Front View Dodge

James Wright II, a professor in police-community relations, fears that using unmarked vehicles only exacerbates tension between the public and law enforcement. Wright believes using these patrol cars can damage the trust agencies are trying to build with communities.

"It gives the perception that the community is doing something that is not lawful. Then it's telling the police officers that they need to be hyper-vigilant when they're in these unmarked cars as well, so I think on both ends it can be scary," added the professor.

Furthermore, using unmarked vehicles makes it easier for citizens to impersonate police officers. Early last year, a 41-year-old man was arrested for impersonating a law enforcement official after using an unmarked police Camaro to perform an illegal traffic stop.

2019-2023 Chevrolet Camaro Coupe Side Perspective Driving Chevrolet

Police officials say officers in unmarked patrol cars will always wear a full police uniform. The vehicles will also be fitted with an array of flashing emergency lights. But that's still not enough to convince skeptical motorists, who can find themselves in danger if they stop for someone posing as a police officer. Some wannabe law enforcement officials even wear fake uniforms and carry badges.

Dic Donohue, a researcher with the RAND Center for Quality Policing, said departments need to let communities know they plan to use unmarked vehicles more regularly and explain to motorists what they can do if they're not sure an unmarked car is legit.

"We've certainly seen bad actors and folks take advantage, said the professor. "Could this cause a secondary issue where somebody flees or doesn't comply with an officer pulling them over because they just don't know?"

2018-2023 Ford Mustang Coupe Front Angle View Ford

Critics have also argued that these vehicles are considerably more expensive to buy than regular, marked police cruisers. According to SPPD, a police-spec Explorer costs around $53,183. That's a bit less than the $54,667 required for the unmarked Mustang, which still needs to be fitted with the necessary equipment.

It's a similar story in Hillsborough, where the Dodge Challenger patrol cars cost $1,000 more than the standard-issue Tahoe police vehicles. The sheriff's office has tried to save money by purchasing V6 models, as they're cheaper to buy and provide better gas mileage.

Despite the various cons, Rizer says he believes one can't put a price on the cars and their contribution to keeping roads safer "Think about your family and the way you want people to drive around you. We're out here in these vehicles, and they're going to stop driving the way they drive because somebody may be injured or killed."

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2015-2023 Dodge Challenger SXT / GT Front View
2019-2023 Chevrolet Camaro Coupe Side Perspective Driving
2018-2023 Ford Mustang Coupe Front Angle View

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