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LOCKPORT – Forfeiture of property by a Buffalo drug dealer has put Lockport Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Corvette, at least part of the time, the chief explained at Wednesday’s meeting of the Common Council.

Lockport is one of several local police agencies that assigned an officer to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Buffalo task force two years ago. Eggert said there’s a formula, based on the amount of work each community’s officers do on each case, that gives the local departments a chance to share in the seizures of money and property from defendants.

Eggert said he had his doubts when the DEA offered him a black 1998 Corvette convertible with about 65,000 miles on it. But when he learned that the only strings attached were that the city had to keep it for two years and then could sell it, Eggert decided to make the deal.

The Corvette was tricked out with graphics, including this statement on each side: “Courtesy of your local drug dealer.”

Eggert said, “I drive it to some of my meetings. I drove it to a chiefs’ meeting in Hamburg and at every red light on Transit Road, people were rolling down their windows, cheering, taking pictures of it.”

The Corvette has been equipped with police lights and a siren, meaning it could be used on patrol if necessary, although it probably won’t be in action that much.

Eggert said a disadvantage to doing so would be that the car is so low-slung that an officer in a hurry might find it hard to get out of the vehicle.

“When we sell it in a couple of years, we’ll be able to buy a new patrol car” with the proceeds, Eggert said.

He said the city also has received a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, three vans and two Mercedes-Benz automobiles, although the drug dealer is contesting the forfeiture of one of those last two. Eggert said the city gave back two of the vans, which were in rough shape, having been used to haul drugs from Texas to Buffalo over and over.

“I think it’s one of the best things the Council ever did,” Mayor Michael W. Tucker said of the DEA participation.

Eggert said that being involved with the DEA is a source of tips on drug activity headed for Lockport, “instead of having to wait for them to cross the city line.”

On another police topic, Tucker announced that the Impact Zone program centered on Washburn Street is nearing completion. Saturation police patrols and a crackdown by the Building Inspection Department have had a positive effect on the neighborhood, the mayor said. “There will be other parts of the city we’re going to take a look at,” he said.

The Council also voted to renew the city’s 4 percent “bed tax” on hotel and motel bills for three more years.

Council President Anne E. McCaffrey said the city is still discussing the idea of increasing the tax to 5 percent, with the extra money used to pay for the city’s summer tourist shuttle, the Towpath Trolley. Most of the existing tax is sent to Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com