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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 05/15/13
Sheriff: each patrol
unit costs $500,000
by CHRIS GRAYOfficials are looking for ways to alleviate problems caused by limited road patrols in the local area, but it isn't the crime rate they're trying to fix.
Observer Staff Writer
The Macomb County Board of Commissioners' Justice and Public Safety Committee met on May 6 to hear the concerns of Washington and Lenox township officials that feel their agreements with the Macomb County Sheriff's Office are not being fulfilled.
Townships like Lenox, Macomb and Washington contract with the sheriff's office for enhanced patrols in their respective areas. Washington Township pays $950,000 a year to have seven deputies patrol the township. The contract calls for deputies to operate "within the corporate limits of the township."
Four northern townships - Armada, Bruce, Ray and Richmond - do not pay for police protection outside of regular taxes, but the sheriff's office has a constitutional requirement to respond to emergency calls in these areas. At the present time, only one cruiser covers the 144 square miles.
Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said emergencies include calls like domestic violence and crimes in progress, and for safety reasons, two deputies must respond to these calls. Since there is only one road patrol in the area, he has to pull resources from surrounding communities to provide back up.
"We've made deep cuts over the years, that is why I only have one deputy," Wickersham said. "Every year we look at ways to save money, to come in under budget and not ask for more unless it's a necessity."
Washington Township Supervisor Dan O'Leary said the deputy assigned to his township is forced to leave and handle emergencies in those areas that aren't paying for protection, resulting in a deputy patrolling Washington Township only 70 percent of the time.
"Basically it's causing him (Wickersham) to violate our contract in order to serve those townships without police," he said. "What we asked them to do is allocate resources differently, to move one more car to the northern end so they wouldn't be in violation of our contract to satisfy their constitutional requirements."
O'Leary said adding a second patrol won't solve the problem, but is a start to alleviating it. When asked if Washington would seek additional patrols from the Michigan State Police, O'Leary said it wouldn't be advisable as it could cause complications with mixed jurisdictions.
"The best solution is to re-assign some people from the south to the north, then ultimately for those townships that don't participate to help share that burden," O'Leary said.
Wickersham said he doesn't plan to make any changes to his policies at the present time. Instead, he said he would need additional funding from the county to increase patrols. He said another patrol would cost around $500,000, which would cover hiring four deputies for the shift.
"If the Board of Commissioners wanted to give me additional funding to give additional deputies, then I would be able to take those deputies and deploy them appropriately," he said. "I'm not in a position to ask for a half-million increase in my budget."
Dist. 7 County Commissioner Don Brown, a member of the public safety committee, said he would support a budget amendment so the sheriff's office could adjust its patrols accordingly.
"We can't just amend his budget, he has to initiate budget judgment or ask the county executive," Brown said. "If he decides to just not do it right now, I'll be able to make that pitch to put it in the budget to have that extra car."
Complicating the matter is the fact that the four townships had failed ballot proposals in 2012 that would've levied new millages to pay for additional police protection.
"All millages were defeated by large margins, so those communities have spoken the level of police protection they desire," Wickersham said.
In Bruce Township, the millage proposal was voted down by two thirds of voters. Supervisor Richard Cory said it was likely that residents voted it down because the tax burden would be spread on fewer people when compared to more populated areas.
"The voters spoke a while ago that they didn't want or couldn't afford sheriff's protection," he said. "If the Board of Commissioners can free up money to get to the sheriff and use it out here that would be great."
Cory said the township relies on the emergency patrols as well as patrols from the state police. State troopers will take non-emergency calls in the township, but the sheriff's office responds to emergencies if the troopers aren't available.
"Everybody wants police protection, but it's going to cost," Cory said.