The graveyard for derelict police vehicles lies just before the Cumuto army barracks.
Here, a total of 461 wrecked police vehicles, mostly Mitsubishi Lancers and Suzuki Grand Vitaras, waiting to be processed for an auction that the police hope will take place in August.
Police vehicles – cars, buses, vans, trucks and motorcycles – many of them covered in mildew and with no wheels or doors – line a four-acre space carved from 100 acres of land given to the police by the state. Cars date back as far as the PBC series, which was the registration number for June 1997 to January 1998.
“Some of the vehicles are here because of road accidents and some are here because it is not economically feasible to fix them,” said Someet Ramroop, head, administration, of the Police Service. “The vehicles that are no longer roadworthy, or no longer economically feasible to repair, will be disposed of via auction.”
Ramroop said the plan is for the police to have “a centralised area to bring all marked and unmarked police vehicles to prevent the police compounds being filled with derelict or non-functional police vehicles that are an eyesore and pose health concerns. Any vehicles that are deemed worthy of being fixed will be prepared,” he says.
Two weeks ago, at the entrance of the lot, Cpl Mahmud Muhammed sat in his office with three desks, a kitchen and a dormitory constructed inside a container.
Three to four police officers have been working a shift (a total of nine-12 officers a week) to guard the vehicles since this section was commissioned nine months ago. Officers are pulled from nearby police stations to work shifts.
“The vehicles are safe and secure here,” said Muhammad.
A fence and gate, along with constant police presence, help to secure the premises.
Garvin Simon, the superintendent in charge of Police Transport and Telecom, is the police officer who decides which police vehicles can be repaired and which will be confined to the police car graveyard.
Walking through the site for an inspection two weeks ago, Simon said, “It might seem like a lot of vehicles are here, but the lifetime of a police vehicle is normally about three to five years. We don’t change our fleet as regularly as we should or as often as police do abroad. We just keep adding to older vehicles until they become unserviceable. We keep fixing vehicles until they can’t go anymore.”
Simon says most of the vehicles at the Cumuto site got to a point where parts were too expensive or no longer available. Some vehicles look good but engine problems became the issue.
“About 15 per cent of the vehicles here were written off in accidents,” says Simon.
The process of preparing for the police auction involves the police compiling a list for disposal, including registration number, chassis and engine numbers of each vehicle. This list is sent to the Central Tenders Board of the Ministry of Finance, which oversees the auction of all government assets.
Simon began the process of compiling that list the beginning of May so that the Licensing Office and the Central Tenders Board can assess the vehicles and set a price for them. Board members will come to inspect the vehicles and match the vehicles with the police list.
“We expect the required audit for the auction to be finished by August,” said Simon.
Simon has assembled a team to list the needed information for each vehicle.
“The goal is to get rid of all of the vehicles here. It may be feasible to fix some, but for the most part the depreciation of the vehicles and the amount of damage of some means that very few, if any, will be salvageable.”
Soon about 300 stolen civilian vehicles that had been recovered by the police and unclaimed by their owners will also be placed in this lot for the auction. They will undergo the same procedure as the police vehicles. From this point onward, no more wrecked vehicles are supposed to be kept at police stations or other locations.
"We are going to manage any vehicles that no longer function and are in police possession here, in one central location,” says Ramroop.
The police are still deciding what to do with the rest of the 96 acres given by the state to the police, but in the future, this area of Cumuto will now be the only graveyard for derelict police vehicles.