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Communities Weigh Costs of Police Service

March 10, 2002
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Communities Weigh Costs of Police Service

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) - Suburban growth in Southeast Michigan is forcing smaller communities, now served by county sheriff departments, to reevaluate their law enforcement needs.

After weighing costs against benefits against risks, numerous communities in Macomb and Oakland counties chose to pay the sheriff's departments to provide police service, rather than create their own police departments.

Municipal officials in those communities told The Detroit News for a Sunday story that they get the protection they need from the sheriff's departments, and it's cheaper for taxpayers.

With a population of about 60,000, Macomb Township is one of those communities. It's currently patrolled by about a half-dozen Macomb County sheriff's deputies at any given time.

But in similar-sized Detroit area communities that have their own police departments, there are typically four to five times that number of officers on duty at a time.

Township supervisor John Brennan said his community's needs are being met.

"You have a detective bureau, a youth bureau, the highest level of training and the biggest force in the county," Brennan said. "We probably get the same protection for (less than the cost of a full-time police force)."

But as communities such as Macomb Township continue to grow in population, the need for police services increases. Calls for service in Macomb Township jumped from 19,148 in 2000 to 27,247 last year, according to the sheriff's department.

Macomb Sheriff Mark Hackel said Macomb Township eventually will need to increase its police service. Hackel said the accepted standard for police staffing levels nationwide is 2.5 officers for every 1,000 residents. Macomb Township has one deputy for every 4,516 residents

A Detroit News survey of Detroit area communities found that many had staffing levels close to that standard.

Canton, Waterford and Clinton townships had the highest ratios of nearly 1,000 residents for each officer. Grosse Pointe Shores, Clarkston and Bloomfield Hills had some of the lowest ratios with nearly 150 residents per officer.

The Macomb County Sheriff's Department provides full-service protection, which includes road patrols and criminal investigations, to at least four townships. The Sheriff's Department in Oakland County contracts services with 12 communities.

The Wayne County Sheriff's Department does not have any contracts for full-time protection with any communities. But the department does provide road patrol service to Melvindale, Allen Park, Inkster, Highland Park, Gibraltar and Plymouth Township.

Rochester Hills, which contracts with the Oakland County sheriff's Department for 58 deputies, is looking at increasing that number. The city pays nearly $5 million each year for the police service it receives. City officials see that as a savings to its nearly 70,000 residents.

Similar sized communities in Metro Detroit pay more for their own police departments. West Bloomfield Township pays more than $9 million each year for the 72-officer department, while the 58-officer Shelby Township department has annual expenditures of about $9.6 million.

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