FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Last year, 37 people died on Flagler County roads, most of them killed in the county's most populated city Palm Coast, according to Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly.
In February, five people were killed in a horrific four-car crash at an intersection just outside of Palm Coast.
"So I knew we had to do something," Staly said.
Staly went to Palm Coast City Commissioners and negotiated a deal to place five of his traffic deputies in and around Palm Coast seven days a week. But the sheriff wanted to place them in five new special patrol cars and he wanted the city of Palm Coast to pay for it.
Earlier this year, city commissioners agreed.
Staly got his special patrol cars: five brand new Ford Mustangs.
"I wanted something that was nontraditional, didn't look like a police car, and when we're running radar they're not really sure what that is sitting by the side of the road," Staly said.
From the front, the Mustangs are indiscernible as patrol cars but on the sides and back they are painted with the Flagler Sheriff's Office logo and colors.
They have no light bar on the roof and no markings or equipment on the hood.
Deputy Craig Rossi, one of the deputies now assigned exclusively to Palm Coast, said the cars are getting attention even though they were chosen to be stealthy.
"It's something different," Rossi said. "It's a visibility thing and we're getting motorists to realize that the Mustang is different, that it is part of our traffic unit."
Rossi said the visibility of the Mustangs and the presence of the additional deputies are causing drivers to slow down and pay attention at Palm Coast's most dangerous intersections.
"People stop me when I'm out of the car," Rossi said. "And they wanted to thank me that they noticed a drastic difference in speeders and tailgating and reckless driving going on on that particular street."
Rossi and the other four dedicated deputies focus on drivers who put other drivers and pedestrians at risk in crosswalks, at red lights and intersections.
Staly said traffic fatalities are down 9 percent this year compared to last year.
"We've had 10 fatal crashes, that's still 10 too many, but so far it's a huge reduction from what we saw in 2017," Staly said.
Staly said the Mustangs saved taxpayers money. Each car, when equipped, cost almost $5,000 less than a traditional patrol car, Staly said.