July 22, 2014

Area communities unite in forming alliance to enhance safety and security in eastern Washtenaw County region

Washtenaw County, City of Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township and Eastern Michigan University launch the Eastern Washtenaw Safety Alliance. Broad collaboration features increased police staff, expanded patrols and new community safety measures.

by Geoff Larcom, Published July 08, 2014

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YPSILANTI, Mich. – Washtenaw County, the City of Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township and Eastern Michigan University are combining efforts in a partnership to maintain and enhance the safety and security of the residents of eastern Washtenaw County.

The Eastern Washtenaw Safety Alliance (EWSA), a coalition of top area officials and law enforcement leaders spearheaded by State Rep. David Rutledge, D-Superior Township, is a collaboration that taps into the resources of area police agencies, governments and organizations to expand crime-fighting efforts in a variety of crucial ways in the eastern Washtenaw region.

The alliance, formally announced today (July 8) at a press conference at SPARK East headquarters on Michigan Avenue in downtown Ypsilanti, involves measures such as increased police officers, expanded patrols, installing new streetlights and shared jurisdictional authority. The alliance includes the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office, which also patrols Ypsilanti Township; the City of Ypsilanti Police Department; and the Eastern Michigan University Department of Public Safety. The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA) will also be actively involved in the alliance.

“Most people would be surprised to learn that in the greater Ypsilanti area there are three different police agencies, each with its own separate and narrow geographical responsibility,” said Rutledge, whose district includes nearly all of the Ypsilanti region. “To this end, I called together the leadership of these police agencies and units of government in the area and posed this question: Is there a way that these three policing departments can systematically utilize interagency partnerships and community strategies to proactively address public safety issues? The answer is a resounding ‘Yes.’

Rep. David E. Rutledge, D-Superior Township, speaks at the press conference announcing the increased policing measures associated with the new alliance.

“Community leaders and the leadership of these departments met over the last seven months to form new partnerships, expand existing collaborations and initiate new strategies. I am proud of each of them for their vision and for what this collaboration will mean to our community.”

Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton said, “Collaborative efforts similar to the EWSA are not new to Washtenaw County. Our law enforcement professionals have traditionally placed a high emphasis on working together, because we have always known that crime does not know boundaries, and criminals do not stop at the edge of any jurisdictional boarder. As the County Sheriff, we have a responsibility for and are committed to the safety of every resident, no matter where you live in Washtenaw County. Working in partnership with our fellow law enforcement agencies is not only fiscally responsible because of the shared resources, but it is also a smarter way to prevent and solve crimes.”

Ypsilanti Chief of Police Tony DeGiusti said, “Safety and security are an important part of what a community needs to thrive. It has become more and more clear that no one agency working alone can solve its crime and disorder problems. This is mainly because criminals are mobile, and they don’t pay attention to lines on a map or what jurisdiction they are in.

“We need to understand that and adapt our methods of policing to address these problems. This initiative is exciting because the agencies involved understand this concept and realize that by collaborating we can all do a better job of protecting our communities.”

“The alliance is a major step in fighting crime in the Ypsilanti area,” said EMU President Susan Martin. “With more than 500 cameras, a professional and experienced police force, and extensive safety protocols and practices, Eastern’s campus is very safe. Our focus is on maintaining the extensive safety operations in place on Eastern’s campus while greatly increasing the University’s off-campus presence. The alliance and these collective efforts are powerful steps in enhancing safety for everyone in Ypsilanti and the surrounding areas.”

A centerpiece of the alliance is the fact that more officers are patrolling the areas around the Eastern Michigan campus and also extending to downtown Ypsilanti, the location of the EMU College of Business. Eastern Michigan is hiring 10 additional police officers this year. Four are already on patrol, with four additional officers to be hired this summer and two more in the fall. The increased staffing will give Eastern 43 fully professional, deputized officers.

In addition, the City of Ypsilanti has hired eight new police officers since last fall, bringing the city’s total to 29.

Last month, Eastern announced an increased commitment of more than $1.7 million in safety and security upgrades for the coming fiscal year. Those improvements include:

  • Funding for the additional police officers.
  • New surveillance cameras on campus, to increase the more than 500 cameras already in place.
  • Expanding lighting on the perimeter of campus.
  • The renovation of police headquarters to accommodate the new officers joining the force.

The officers from each agency in the alliance share jurisdictional authority, meaning they all have countywide powers of arrest. The Washtenaw County Sheriff now swears in all Ypsilanti police officers, and EMU police officers are sworn in with the city of Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County.

Last October, EMU, the Ypsilanti Police and the Washtenaw County Sheriff began coordinated patrolling in the Leforge Road area north of campus. Expanded patrols now include neighborhoods surrounding campus on its south, east and west borders, where a concentration of EMU students and staff and Ypsilanti residents live.

The County Sheriff’s office is also devoting additional deputies and specialized units to support the success of the alliance. For example, the county’s Street Outreach Team has targeted EWSA focus areas for its efforts in community surveying and in community building, with measures such as neighborhood watch programs. Along that line, the county’s Community Engagement Division has led stakeholder conversations in the Leforge area, to help identify the root causes of crime in the area and to build a sense of community.

Other prominent elements of the new Eastern Washtenaw Safety Alliance include:

New and improved lighting

  • The City of Ypsilanti has contracted to convert all of its streetlights to LED lights, resulting in increased illumination and improving safety conditions for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. The cost of the conversion is approximately $600,000.
  • EMU is working with DTE Energy in adding new streetlights in the Westview residential area, located off Huron River Drive to the west of campus. The University also plans to add new streetlights along the Cornell Road and Huron River Drive areas adjacent to campus, and along Clark Road, east and west of Leforge Road, several blocks north of campus.

Reaching out to property owners

  • Members of the alliance continue to work with private rental properties in the campus area to press for further safety measures in those complexes.
  • The Red Lion, University Green and Peninsular Place apartments in Ypsilanti have increased their private security patrols, added blue emergency phones and together have installed more than $300,000 in video surveillance equipment.

Ypsilanti Community Action Team

Building on the successes of the Leforge Road area initiative between the city, the Sheriff’s office and EMU, the alliance has formed the Ypsilanti Community Action Team (YCAT). YCAT is a unit of officers employing various tactics to increase safety throughout the city, with an emphasis on off-campus, high-density student housing.

Creating a DDA partnership

The City and the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority have partnered to address concerns in the downtown district. Along with regular police patrols, a special development authority area police officer, to be appointed later this year and equally funded by the City and DDA, will deeply engage with residents, students, businesses and visitors in enhancing safety initiatives downtown. The officer will at times patrol on foot and by bike in making regular contact with downtown businesses and visitors. The DDA will use this officer as a primary contact person for issues that arise in the downtown district.

Programs already in place

The new measures come in addition to several important collaborations already in place among Washtenaw County police agencies. These include:

  • The Washtenaw Metro SWAT Team.
  • The Washtenaw Metro Hostage Negotiations Team.
  • The K-9 Patrol Unit, which includes Pittsfield Township and a countywide consortium.
  • The agencies also engage with various county school districts in training programs, including active shooter response and the A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) program, which instructs citizens on how to deal with intruders bent on causing harm.
  • The agencies also cooperate in developing countywide policies on domestic violence response, active shooter response and mutual aid.

Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority partnership

The alliance will also be collaborating with The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority on a regular basis. The AAATA (The Ride) has numerous routes that extend into Ypsilanti, with further expansion planned for this year under a recently approved millage. Mutual efforts with AAATA will include:

  • The AAATA working with its drivers to act as eyes and ears to report suspicious situations.
  • The Ride’s security firm, DK Security, will participate in the alliance.
  • The alliance will develop a communication plan between the three police agencies and The Ride’s dispatch center to quickly react and cooperate in solving area crimes.
  • Video will be made available whenever necessary from AAATA cameras at the Ypsilanti Transit Center and from cameras on buses. The transit center is located at the corner of Pearl Street and North Adams Street in downtown Ypsilanti, just east of the EMU College of Business.

“Public safety is the foundation on which any vibrant community is built,” said Rutledge in describing the EWSA. “I am proud and excited over the partnerships, expanded collaborations and strategies arising from this alliance. This project has great meaning for the safety and security of residents of our community.”

More information and a video regarding the alliance is online at http://www.emich.edu/police/alliance/.

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Media Contacts:

Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office
Derrick L. Jackson, 734.891.2243

City of Ypsilanti
Ericka Savage, 734.483.1810

Eastern Michigan University
Geoff Larcom, 734.487.4400

Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority
Mary Stasiak, 734.794.1870

State Representative David Rutledge
734.646.5954

Geoff Larcom

glarcom@emich.edu

734.487.4400

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