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Who you gonna call?

Anne Stanton - May 18th, 2006
The budget of the Benzie County Sheriff’s Department has been stripped to the bone, and it’s starting to show. A roving road patrol deputy is no longer a given.
“We get there as quick as we can, we always do, but there are times we don’t have anyone on patrol at all, no one at all,” said Benzie County Undersheriff Joe Barone.
No one?
“Oh yeah. I only have six deputies. When you take 24 hours a day, seven days a week, vacations, sick time and the relief factor, you can only put them in so many places and then you have to stop service. And that happened because the millage was voted down (in August of last year with a two to one margin). That cut us by six positions. They cut our force in half. We’re going to probably lose more people. When the Unger trial is over, we’ll probably lose one more deputy.
“Nobody listens until it affects them and then they wonder why. They try to blame us, but this is what the citizens wanted, or I guess I should say what they didn’t want. They didn’t want law enforcement.”
It’s not like Benzie County is a low-crime area; just last week, there was a murder-suicide. And while Benzie County employs five or six road patrol deputies, other rural counties such as Antrim, Emmet, Wexford, and Leelanau all have road patrols numbering about a dozen or more.
Coverage from the Frankfort Village Police Department is sporadic, and the two Michigan State Police officers posted in Honor work from noon to midnight, and sometimes not even that if they are off for training or vacation.
So far, there haven’t been serious consequences. “We have called people in from their beds to help out,” Barone said. “In one case, we were lucky because we have a take-home car policy. They’re able to get dressed real quick, and jump in their car, and go on the scene. Now they’re able to respond right from home and they do.”
If all this makes you nervous, call your county commissioner, Barone suggests.
“They need a mandate from people on how to spend the money. The commissioners have made several hires down at the Government Center, and yet they won’t let us fill our deputy positions.”
-- By Anne Stanton
 
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