11/21/2006

Residents voice frustration over increase in crime

(November 21, 2006) At a special community meting held on Monday, Ypsilanti residents voiced their concerns over the recent increase in street crimes and burglaries. Ypsilanti Police Chief Matt Harshberger said that the majority of the crime is centered around the downtown business district and surrounding neighborhoods.


Watch Video of Police Community Meeting, November 20, 2006


Some 50 residents packed into the Senior Center to hear from Chief Harshberger about some of the problems the community and department are facing. One of the concerns raised by the Chief and several residents was the decision by Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners to stop the boarding out of prisoners to other jails.

Roberta Wojcik-Andrews from Midtown told officials that she has personally been the victim of three crimes since boarding out of County prisoners had ended in August 2006. (0h:45m) Andrews said, "It seems as if the decision to end the outboarding was a knee-jerk, irresponsible action, rather than limiting or controlling (the expense) of outboarding."

Washtenaw County Ways and Means committe heard a report from Sheriff Minzey on June 6, 2006 about the boarding out of prisoners. (see page 6)

Here is a Google search of the County's website with more articles and links on "boarding out" of prisoners.

Mark Maynard has posted notes from Monday's meeting.

Ed Penet from Riverside Neighborhood Association has also written up extensive notes and we have included them below. Thanks Ed for letting YpsiNews post them on the site.

NOTES FROM COMMUNITY MEETING ON CRIME & JAIL OVERCROWDING (11/20/06)

The meeting came down to three actions all residents (owners & renters, alike) must take immediately to help address: A) private property crime in our area, B) ail overcrowding, which puts the same bad people back on the street, and C) the county-wide issue of needing to expand or build a new county jail.

Here are the three things to do NOW:

#1 - You know your neighborhood. Be vigilant and call the non-emergency police number when you see or hear suspicious activity day or night ... people/activity that do/does not belong in your neighborhood, call: 483-9510. Remember what you saw or heard, physical descriptions, colors of clothing. DO NOT get personally involved, but rather let the police come and check it out. If you have any other Ypsilanti law enforcement questions or other issues, call the Ypsilanti Police Administration line: 483-8590. Keep both numbers handy.

ONLY if there is a true emergency, or you have become a victim of a crime and YOU NEED IMMEDIATE police and/or fire assistance, call: 911.

Also ... Get into new habits, immediately: keep your doors locked, windows locked, garage locked, car in the garage and locked or locked in the drive, any and all valuables locked in the trunk and out of sight. Expensive push brooms, snow shovels, lawn furniture, anything "loose" in the yard will have legs.

Despite the additional nominal cost, keep front and side or rear porch lights on at night, or use a timer. Add alarms to your home if you can afford to do so.

#2 - The County jail is in "lockdown" at the present, meaning no new prisoners, unless they are violent offenders or armed robbers. The crimes discussed above will not be handled by our County jail until further notice, meaning offenders are caught, processed and then released ... and they offend again ... and are apprehended again ... etc. what's more, the County will not pay for "outboarding" of prisoners in other county jails. As a result, over the last two months, since the lockdown began, and outboarding was stopped, Ypsilanti Police have arrested 124 persons for unarmed robberies and have processed them with 198 multiple charges, and have had to release them, pending their hearings ... which means they're back on the streets.

You can help the City, the Police, the County Jail Administrator, outspoken County Commissioners, and your neighbors by writing and/or calling the County to insist that two things happen IMMEDIATELY at the jail ... #1 that Sheriff Minzey change his mind and use his statutory authority to reduce the sentences of some non-violent offenders being held at the jail. Early release will free up SOME jail space immediately to make room for "badder" people. #2 - that the County Board of Commissioners IMMEDIATELY (at their very next and their last meeting of the year in early December) reinstitute the practice of "outboarding," where already-sentenced or otherwise eligible prisoners are boarded out to other county jails (Lenawee, Livingston, etc.), which may have space and are willing for a fee ($40 - $60/day) to take these people. It costs us $80 to house an inmate for a day ... so, the price is right ... for the moment.

#3 - In January 2007, the newly constituted County Board of Commissioners will be faced with many issues, among them: either adding a new pod (96 beds) to the current jail ... or, as the consulting architect to the County recommended, demolishing the current structure and building a new, larger, more humane, and more efficient facility. Renovation will take two years, and by that time, the 96 beds will still be 100 or more beds short, given the population growth projected for the County and current crime level projections. An entirely new facility would make more sense and would help address the fundamental issues facing us at this time: removing criminals from the streets, treatment programs and rehab to help change habits, and longterm release strategies to deal with social problems that lead to crime.

Even a new jail won't correct all of that ... as Commissioner Peterson remarked, and Commissioner-elect Schwartz echoed, the newly elected Commission will be much more open to comprehensive activist planning, and to giving a serious look 20 to 30 years out to decide on social and financial strategies for dealing with crime prevention, family services, rehabilitation, financial support, school in-service programs, recreation and jobs. What we are seeing on our streets, for the most part, are crimes perpetrated by our own County residents, who need more comprehensive intervention. Without it ... criminal activity will grow as the population grows. The law enforcement community throughout the County and generally the judicial bench agree.

So, when you write/call, also demand: AT MINIMUM a new jail pod, or more wisely, a comprehensive County services plan, that includes a NEW COUNTY JAIL. Ypsilanti City Council, COPAC, and other civic organizations will ALSO be contacting the County. What will really make a difference to the current and future commissioners will be the volume of citizen letters and calls regarding these issues.

- Ed Penet, RNA Secretary

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