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$750,000 ABC mobile field support van visits Lakefest

SoVaNow.com / July 24, 2013
The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s new field support vehicle was on display this weekend at Lakefest.

The $750,000 command vehicle, which the department unveiled in May, is being used at large-scale events, such as NASCAR races, where alcohol enforcement is needed, explained Special Agent in Charge Michael McKee. He added that the 45-foot-long, specially equipped RV was purchased and outfitted using proceeds from state auctions of assets seized in criminal investigations.

The mobile unit has a second but equally important function, according to McKee — as a stand-alone agency available in natural disasters.

The use of asset forfeiture funds to purchase the mobile unit was questioned at the time of the purchase since, in Virginia, forfeiture proceeds are constitutionally directed [Va. Const. art. VIII s 8] to Virginia’s Literary Fund unless the forfeitures involve controlled substances. Controlled substance enforcement ostensibly falls outside the jurisdiction of the ABC. Virginia code does not include alcohol and tobacco as controlled substances.

The agency disclosed that just prior to receiving the vehicle, it had received three payments totaling slightly more than $753,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture Fund, under an equitable sharing program.

McKee said the vehicle “gives us enhanced communications, more centralized operational efficiency and a very visible ABC law enforcement presence at highly populated events.”

It is equipped with 10 Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephones, which allows for calls using broadband internet connections instead of regular or analog phone lines. It also has eight radio systems capable of speaking to any law enforcement agency in Virginia, and satellite uplink to replace air link in remote areas.

Its surveillance tools include four exterior mounted security cameras that provide 360-degree monitoring coverage, satellite television and a telescoping camera which is IP and low-light capable.

McKee said eight ABC enforcement agents will be trained to drive the vehicle and eight to 10 will be trained to operate the on-board electronics.

When it was unveiled, ABC Director Shawn Walker said the unit “will give us the benefit of enhanced communications, more centralized operational efficiency and a very visible ABC law enforcement presence at these highly populated events.” Additionally, Walker said the mobile unit created “an opportunity for us [Virginia ABC] to contribute more substantively to the partnerships with other law enforcement agencies we have relied on for help.”

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