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The City of Niagara Falls gave its police department an early Christmas gift this year by replacing 75 percent of its patrol fleet with new Chevrolet Tahoes and Malibus, Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto said Friday.

The $500,000 purchase of nine Tahoes and six Malibus was funded by casino revenue from the Seneca Nation of Indians, said Mayor Paul Dyster. A dispute over gambling exclusivity between the Senecas and New York State held up the revenue sharing funds. It was resolved in June, and Niagara Falls received $89 million in August.

It was the first purchase of new police vehicles since 2008, said DalPorto, who described the old Ford Crown Victoria cruisers as overused.

“Once they go over 90,000 miles, they exceed their life as a police car,” he said.

The addition of nine SUVs to the patrol fleet reflects a cost-effective trend, DalPorto said.

“It’s definitely a trend,” the police superintendent said. “We looked into the comparison between the Tahoe and Caprice. The SUVs are more practical, cheaper and as patrol cars, their longevity is longer.”

Their resale value also is greater than that of a sedan, DalPorto added.

The SUVs’ higher ground clearance is a feature that also stood out to Dyster.

“We could have used them this summer when we had the flooding in late June,” the mayor said.

The city had put off the purchase of the new vehicles during the four-year dispute between the Senecas and the state.

email: jkwiatkowski@buffnews.com