Because of high gasoline costs, Union County sheriff's deputies will be doing less driving and more walking.

Because of high gasoline costs, Union County sheriff's deputies will be doing less driving and more walking.

Union County Sheriff Rocky Nelson has ordered deputies to park their vehicles for an hour during the first half of their eight-hour shift and another hour during the second half.

Deputies can remain with the vehicle or patrol on foot.

"I want them to use (the time when the vehicles are parked) wisely, where they are visually being seen and have a presence," he said.

Lt. Cindy McCreary said the department's gasoline costs increased from $51,300 from January to May 2007 to $69,364 for the same period in 2008.

In April 2007, she said, the department spent $14,237 on 5,577 gallons of gasoline.

During April 2008, $14,513 was spent on 4,523 gallons. She said spending more money for less gasoline was the main reason Nelson is reducing vehicle use.

Nelson said there are other advantages to increased foot patrol.

"I've always been a proponent of community policing and I think its great for the guys to interact face-to-face with the people in the county," he said.

He admitted there are drawbacks to the plan.

"Obviously, we can't get out and get the proactive law enforcement as much as we would like to," he said.

He defined proactive law enforcement as an active search for trouble, as opposed to responding to calls.

Nelson said the amount of foot patrol being used would depend on how things are working.

"It all depends on how many deputies we have working and how they are keeping up with calls," he said.

McCreary said there are 39 vehicles in the fleet.

She said they include a Ford Explorer, 11 Ford Expeditions and 18 Ford Crown Victorias, among others.

There are also two motorcycles.

She said the fleet does not include any hybrids or diesel vehicles and uses only gasoline.