Out-County Commissioners Fear Patrol Agreement

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The Lansing City Council will vote Monday on a state law that will bring Ingham County Sheriff's deputies to assist the Lansing Police Department as available.

Mutual Patrol Services Public Act 416 requires the sheriff to send deputies when free to assist in traffic enforcement. Deputies would not respond to calls for service and would likely only contribute a few hours a week.

Even with such a small time commitment, Ingham County Commissioner Don Vickers worries for his constituents in small, out-county townships that don't have their own police departments.

"If they have to go and patrol Lansing streets, that would take patrol time away from the men and women that are currently patrolling M-36 and M-52 corridor," he said. "We cannot afford to lessen the patrol."

Vickers fears an increase in break-ins and other crime in his district, which encompasses the City of Mason, the City of Leslie and Leslie, Bunker Hill, Ingham and Vevay Townships.

And he says his area deserves to keep its services to itself, especially with a department that only can afford to staff 14 deputies. It takes five to patrol.

"At one time everyone said the bulk of the money comes from Lansing but the recent equalization report shows the taxes from the out-county area is greater than the taxes received from the city of Lansing," he said.

If the Lansing City Council approves the measure at its meeting Monday, the Board of Commissioners would have 30 days to reject the agreement. Vickers says he doesn't think the county has the votes, pointing out that six of the 14 commissioners represent some portion of Lansing.

City Council Member Jody Washington, who chairs the public safety committee, says she understands the concerns of the out-county residents.

"But I have to look at this issue through the eyes of Lansing," she said. "And for Lansing any help we can get, we will take. This will help to keep our roads safer and perhaps may free up some of our officers for other things."

The deputies come at no cost to the city -- they are funded through a state grant that comes from traffic fines -- and may actually generate revenue. All tickets issued by deputies in Lansing's 54-A district will stay in the 54-A district.

Washington said the cost was no factor in her decision.

Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth called the act "more symbolic than actually a crime-fighting tool," adding he will follow the law as he has sworn to do.

"It's not going to be a big deal," he said. "It really doesn't threaten anybody, it's not going to make a huge difference in what happens in the City of Lansing anyhow, so what difference does it make?"

Though the law requires him to send help when available, Wriggelsworth said, the law does not mandate how frequently he sends it.

"Because I have so few deputies on the road, it would be a rarity that I could get somebody up there," he said, adding there may be some weeks where no deputies are free. "Maybe one day a week, three or four hours would be the extent of my commitment."

Ingham County Sheriff's deputies will only be allowed to patrol secondary roads -- anything that is not a highway. Lansing Police Chief Mike Yankowski has said deputies would mainly work on major arterial streets.

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