LENCO Industries of Pittsfield, Mass. is among many national companies that are benefiting from large federal grants given out by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“Homeland security grants have significantly boosted sales,” said Len Light, Chief Executive Officer of LENCO Industries.
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Without specifying precise figures, Light said, “annual sales are about $40 million.” Light also explained LENCO generally has sold about 50 armored vehicles a year to police forces and through military contracts.
The LENCO BearCat, which stands for Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck is, “The most commonly sold vehicle we have,” said Light.
The LENCO BearCat is advertised at a cost of $300,000 before adding in extra potential attachments. Light said, “These armored vehicles are good not only for military use, but also for police escort and rescue mission vehicles.”
Homeland Security has been providing grants for cities and towns across America to be able to purchase armored vehicles and equipment since their creation in 2002.
LENCO Industries started in 1981 as a government supporter of weapon technologies. Employing over 60 employees as of early 2012, the company is known via their website, swattrucks.com for being a supplier of militarized armored vehicles.
Now in early 2012, LENCO Industries has become known internationally for the production of the LENCO B.E.A.R. and the LENCO BearCat.
“Since 2001, we’ve produced over 4,000 armored vehicles to be used in over 30 countries,” said Light. “These vehicles primary usage is for transport and tactical SWAT and reaction teams.”
The various models marketed by LENCO Industries have become the industry standard for many large city police forces and even for use in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jim Massery of LENCO Industries said in a Feb. 9, 2012 City Council meeting in Keene, “LENCO is the leading manufacturer for armored vehicles in the United States.”
Massery also went on record during the Feb. 9 City Council meeting about the BearCat’s usefulness.
“In 2010, an armed offender shot more than 35 rounds directly at the LENCO BearCat with an AK-47 automatic rifle, and not one round penetrated the vehicle,” said Massery.
“We’ve obviously got competition,” said CEO Light. “There is Canadian manufacturers, Terradyne Armored Vehicles Inc, and they are seen to be the closest competitor to the BearCat, but local police forces are choosing the BearCat because of what it offers and its price.”
And more local police forces are choosing the BearCat as a method of transporting their SWAT teams.
LENCO Industries has its vehicles in cities like Boston, New York City, Denver, Philadelphia, Washington, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Austin and Miami.
Smaller New England towns have recently purchased LENCO BearCats like Andover and Newburyport, Mass. The Seacoast of New Hampshire is home to three LENCO BearCats. Known as the Seacoast Emergency Response Team, Rockingham County shelters two BearCats in its Newington base, while Strafford County houses a single BearCat for smaller communities.
Lieutenant Darrin Sergeant of the Portsmouth, N.H. police department said, “We’ve had one for about five years. And the BearCat is used about 12 times a year at every emergency call with the potential of an armed offender.”
“The Seacoast Emergency Response Team uses the LENCO BearCat for SWAT transport to every situation,” said Sergeant.
Sergeant also said, “The vehicle is absolutely necessary. “It keeps our troops safe inside. That thing can withstand up to a .50 caliber gun.”
The Seacoast Emergency Response Team was formed in 2001, with the formation of 10 other surrounding towns in the seacoast region, but the City of Portsmouth applied specifically for a federal grant from Homeland Security to purchase the LENCO BearCat in 2007.
While the Portsmouth, N.H. BearCat is used on average once a month over the past five years, “Only a handful of times have the optional attachments of a winch and gun turret ever been used. The main uses are for tactics that require operations above and beyond the capabilities of the normal police force,” said Sergeant.
With Homeland Security’s federal grant applications, many big cities around the country are being allowed to arm police forces by adding military equipment. The total funding allotted by the US Department of Homeland Security in the fiscal year of 2011 was $294 million, in the name of “supporting the implementation of state Homeland Security Strategies to address identified planning and organization of terrorism in case of catastrophic events.”
The Seacoast Emergency Response Team isn’t the only one of its kind in the state of New Hampshire.
Keene has had an Emergency Response Team for 25 years. While the small city of 23,000 people has had only two murders since 1999, Captain Bryan Costa of the Keene Police Department said, “This truck would protect the people and the police officers. It’s mutually beneficial.”
CEO Light said, “Most of the vehicles we’ve sold to other police forces around the country use them for SWAT team transport, and rescue mission vehicles.”
Captain Costa said he believes the LENCO BearCat could have been a welcome savior in the recent Hurricane Irene flooding of Vermont. ”We could have helped them out during Irene, just as we would expect any other towns to help us out as they did when we had the devastating floods in 2005,” Costa said. “Bigger cities have equipment for emergencies and there’s no issue there. We’ve got to be prepared for anything.”
Indeed there are major cities that have applied for FEMA grants in order to add to their defenses. Louisville, Ky. added two LENCO BearCats and bought two military-grade helicopters the day after Sept. 11, 2001.
Pittsburgh, Pa., a city of 370,000 people, owns one BearCat, in which a police officer who answered the departmental phone, but requested to not be named said, “It gets used four times a month.”
Police officials in Austin, Texas, population of 720,000, said that their two BearCats in use by the police force get used every time SWAT is called out for transport, about six to eight times a month.
While being marketed as, “Emergency Response Vehicles,” by Light said, “Our vehicles can be used for a multitude of situations, ranging from off road rescue missions, to protecting SWAT team members in a tense situation.”
Keene’s Police Force was recently awarded a grant from the Homeland Security and was awarded almost $286,000 to purchase a LENCO BearCat.
Some residents of Keene find the image of an armored ‘tank’ frightening.
City Council member Terry Clark was the lone vote on a Dec 15, 2011 meeting when a 13-1 approval vote was taken to accept the grant.
A Feb. 9 public hearing included opposition from locals postponing the vote to accept the grant. A final council vote is scheduled to take place on Thursday March 1 at 7 p.m. at Keene City Hall.
Captain Costa, who has been heading the grant application process, said, “ I’ve seen a lot in my 18 years here and we could use this thing.” Costa explained the federal grant money the police department applied for was buying an armored vehicle and its uses were specified for SWAT team transportation, identifying of deadly toxins and tactical rescue mission operations. “You just can’t convince me that this truck wouldn’t help us out,” said Costa
Cam King can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.