North Siders Worry About LPD Move

North-side residents are worried what might happen to the safety and vitality of Old Town if the Lansing Police Department moves its north precinct.
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Residents of Lansing's north side fear crime rates may rise and business may be hurt if the Lansing Police Department moves its north precinct to the city's south side as planned.

At least a half-dozen people spoke up Friday at the city's Ways and Means Committee meeting, voicing their concerns to members of the city council and the police chief.

"We're very concerned about the move," said Louise Gradwohl, executive director of the Old Town Commercial Association. "We want to make sure everyone just makes a really smart decision."

Others who spoke cited concerns over costs to the city and its taxpayers.

"Something goes wrong with this Hill Center, I the taxpayer have to pay for it and I don't like that," said one man who testified. "You're signing up for a world of problems."

A plan, which has been months in the making would put 130 people in 86,000 square feet of space the Lansing School District isn't currently using and LPD says it needs. The city will spend about $800,000 in renovations. The south side community pool will also be reopened.

LPD says response times and crime rates won't be affected because officers deploy from their cars in the field.

It's little comfort to Corina and Miguel Ferreyra-Flores, who run a marketing business out of their apartment on the north side.

They say a building is more than a building.

"It's about claiming your territory," said Miguel. "People are not going to be doing as much bad things near the police station."

Miguel, who group up in Lansing, doesn't want to see all the progress he says has been made in Old Town get erased.

"Old Town has been revitalized and it's a good change," he said. "The thing is that I think it will change back, it will revert back to the way it used to be."

Police Chief Mike Yankowski, on the contrary, said crime rates are tied to tight relationships with the community -- not to buildings, images or reputations.

"It's all about trying to keep as many police officers on the road," he said. "In some of these decisions that are cost-effective and cost-neutral, the goal is to maximize the number of police resources on the streets at all times."

Lansing Director of Public Service Chad Gamble says the city's plan is "well thought out," adding the process hasn't been rushed.

"It really is a fabulous arrangement for the city and I'm confident that when it comes up for a floor council vote that everybody who has the best interests of the city in mind, who has the taxpayers costs in mind will certainly vote for it," he said.

The council will vote on the proposal May 19. The mayor's office has said it thinks it will pass. But if it doesn't, Gamble said, the city doesn't have many other options.

The current landlord for the the north precinct has said it is still "open-armed" toward the station -- though both Gamble and Yankowski said Friday the window for consideration from the city has passed.

LPD hopes to move into the Hill Center at the end of August.

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