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Janesville police provide school auto programs with seized cars

Published On: Feb 19 2013 10:08:39 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 19 2013 10:25:42 PM CST

Cars seized from drug dealers and gang members are fueling a new partnership between the Janesville Police Department and the Janesville School District.

Some Craig High School students are learning their way around an engine with the help of their instructor Mike Wagner. Yearly, about 300 students go through Craig High School's automotive program.

"In the past, we were fortunate enough for GM to make some local donations, and then some local donations from Craigslist and then students' parents would donate vehicles at different times for a tax donation," Wagner said.

Now the police department is partnering with the school district to provide cars for automotive programs at Craig and Parker high schools.

Sgt. Brian Donohoue said they work with the District Attorney's Office to legally take possession of the cars before the students can begin working on them. The initiative is designed to keep teens from veering down the wrong path.

"Maybe we can send a message: If you deal in Janesville, Wis., drugs and gangs, you're going to lose your property," Donohoue said.

Parker students have already begun working on the first seized vehicle, which was delivered on Monday.

The principal said the school has about 110 students enrolled in its automotive program.

Donohoue said the benefits of the initiative outweigh the costs.

"There is a bit of an administrative cost but what's neat about this is when the school district is done with the car and they've worked on it all they can, they'll go ahead and give it back to us when they're done with it and we'll go ahead and scrap it," Donohoue said.

Wagner said one of the cars in the school's automotive program has about 300,000 miles on it. He said the new cars will enhance their program.

"It gives the students a real-life opportunity. You can only stage so many so-called breakdowns on vehicles. When you have the actual vehicle in front of them, they get an actual hands-on application of the real world and real experience," Wagner said.

Wagner said students who complete all of the high school automotive courses can earn advanced placement credits that will transfer to Blackhawk Techinical College.

Police said they are hoping to place a car at Craig High School in the next two weeks.

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