When a Valhalla Park employee grew concerned about a man and a girl in the park last week, she didn't call the Ingham County Sheriff's Office specifically, but rather the parks police.
Two officers are designated to patrol Delhi's parks this summer--a trial run of a program that's been active in Ingham County parks for several years. There are about 12 officers in all.
All are deputized by the Ingham County Sheriff's Office and employed only for the summer parks season. They are paid $15/hour, a $17,000 seasonal allowance in the case of Delhi Township. Many are just out of the police academy, gaining experience for other jobs.
Kirk Fitchett, who was arrested with a 14-year-old girl in Valhalla Park, talked with parks officers who later called other investigators with the sheriff's office.
"I think it's a tremendous deal," Mark Jenks, director of Delhi Township's Parks and Rec department says. "It's produced great results."
Jenks says they are aware some parks issues are nuisance calls for the sheriff's office, and these special officers keep them from making unnecessary trips to the parks.
Joe Hogan, who allowed us along while he patrolled Tuesday, said they've been told there are far fewer incidents this year. In addition to their ability deal with criminal issues, their presence alone is deterring crime.