Busiest Bar Night Sees Only Three Ingham County Sheriff's Deputies

By: Sherene Tagharobi Email
By: Sherene Tagharobi Email

Thanksgiving Eve -- it's the busiest bar night of the year.

"You may not be able to get in," said Lanny Preston, owner of Preston's Bar in Grand Ledge.

It's a night you'd hope police would be out looking for drunk drivers. But this year...

"We're not going to be looking for anything. We don't have time to look for anything," said Lt. Vern Elliot of the Ingham County Sheriff's Office.

That's because budget cuts have left them with only three deputies on the road when in years past they've had eight or nine.

"We can no longer be proactive and look for drunk drivers, people breaking the law," he said.

"With three people patrolling the entire county, you really have to prioritize the types of calls we go to and whether or not to make traffic stops," said Deputy Scott Macomber.

It's a dilemma that puts Macomber in a tight spot. If he arrests a drunk driver, that's hours of paperwork he has to do and time he won't be available to respond to calls or help fellow officers in an emergency.

"You could be tied up for two, three hours," he said. "That's two to three hours you're not able to back up other officers or take calls."

Taking calls is challenging enough as it is.

"It's way shortstaffed," Macomber said. "It takes us 35 to 40 minutes to respond to calls."

Some bars like Preston's in Grand Ledge are trying to make sure there are fewer drunk drivers for police to worry about.

"We try not to over-serve people, and we give them rides and we have a large staff tonight, probably 15 employees," said Preston, the owner.

Deputy Macomber says that's something police appreciate. He says he hopes people will be smart enough not to drink and drive.

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