Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Features · Key to the City
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Key to the City

Master key to TC parking meters nets thief a jackpot up to $41,000

Patrick Sullivan - January 14th, 2013  

Douglas Charles Hastings has never received a “key to the city” from Traverse City leaders, but he did get his hands on a key that’s arguably much more valuable.

Hastings managed to get a copy of a key that unlocks any of the city’s parking meters, sturdy steel containers that can be laden with change. A single meter can hold up to $300; a double, up to $600.

Between April and July 19, TC officials estimate Hastings cost the city $41,000 in coins, according to police reports.

Hastings, a 63-year-old from Jackson with a long history of relatively minor felony offenses, was sentenced Jan. 9 to one year in jail after accepting a plea deal that knocked the charge against him down from a felony to a misdemeanor.

He was originally charged with breaking and entering of a coin-operated device, a three-year felony, and being a four-time habitual offender. He pleaded guilty Dec. 20 to attempted breaking of a coin op device.

At his sentencing hearing, Judge Thomas Phillips gave Hastings the maximum penalty he could, saying he thought Hastings got a good deal when he was allowed to plead to a misdemeanor.

Phillips said another hearing would have to be held to determine restitution, as an official amount had not been determined.


The case started in May when Traverse City’s parking services manager noticed the haul from the city’s parking meters had been light in spots. He alerted police.

Dave Malewitz told a detective with the Traverse City Police Department that he estimated revenue was down around $698.

This wasn’t the first time Malewitz had talked with a detective about parking meters. Earlier in the year, two city parking meters had been cut off their posts and stolen.

Malewitz alerted detectives to a littleknown fact about stolen parking meters: inside the mechanism is a serial number, and with that number it’s possible to send away to the company that makes the meter. In exchange for a fee, anyone with a serial number can receive a key.

All of TC’s meters have the same lock, Malewitz told police. One key opens all of them.

Malewitz did not return a message seeking comment.


Traverse City Police launched an aggressive investigation. Patrols were on the lookout for suspicious people around parking meters. Undercover detectives spent nights out surveilling the streets.

The city also responded to staunch the bleeding.

Parking services staff had been emptying meters every week or 10 days; now they were emptying them every other day.

Apparently, it was determined to be too expensive to change the locks.

“In speaking with Malewitz, he indicated that there were possible solutions to this issue,” one detective wrote. “However, ... these solutions would require a substantial investment in order to initiate.”

Part of the way into the investigation, police learned about a similar case downstate.

The Birmingham Police Department was investigating a case where someone apparently got a master key by stealing a parking meter, getting a serial number, and sending away for the key.

They learned the name of the downstate suspect: Douglas Hastings.

Meanwhile, the parking meter thieves struck again. Around June 21, approximately a dozen meters on the 300 and 400 block of East Front Street were emptied.


Det. Keith Gillis, the lead detective on the case, and Det. Kevin Gay determined July 19 was one of the nights when the thieves might return and they decided to work an all-night shift.

It turned out they picked the right night. At 4:20 a.m., patrol officers found a 1994 Chevrolet Suburban parked on East State Street with people inside.

Officers checked the occupants and discovered Hastings’ daughter, Kacey Lynn O’Neil, 22, and a passenger whose name was connected to the City of Birmingham parking meter thefts, Terry Dale Craig, 28.

(O’Neil and Craig have not been charged in Grand Traverse County in connection with the parking meter thefts.)

As the officers talked to them about what they were doing, an older man walked up to the car and the officers asked him for ID. It was Hastings.

“I then asked Mr. Hastings where he came from and he stated that he was just walking back from downtown, down the sidewalk,” the officer wrote in a police report.


Gillis and Gay were called to the scene to interview the suspects and search the car.

Amid trash and empty pop cans and a baby seat and baby strollers, police found two bags stuffed with coins, one black bag that contained $286 in change, and one orange bag with around $255.

They also found a stocking cap with a handle and circular frame attached, apparently a homemade change-collecting device. There was also a large quantity of plastic gloves.

And they found two golden keys, each painted green.


Gillis questioned O’Neil and at first she said she didn’t understand what this was all about.

She said they were parked on the street at 4 a.m. because Hastings had said he wanted to go for a walk. They dropped him off on the sidewalk and waited for him in the parked car.

Under further questioning, O’Neil admitted they brought Hastings downtown from their motel to get money from the parking meters, Gillis wrote.

O’Neil said Hastings owed her some money.

“Even though he had money in his pocket to pay her ... he was going to go out and get more money to pay her what he owed her,” Gillis wrote. “Ms. O’neil stated that she does not know why Doug keeps doing this, and dragging her and her boyfriend into this.”

Gillis also interviewed Terry Craig. “When I questioned him in reference to the process, he advised that Mr. Hastings has a key to open the parking meters, stating that he is very protective of that key,” Gillis wrote. “When I described it as the golden key, he kind of snickered in reference to my comment, advising that Mr. Hastings doesn’t let anybody touch his parking meter keys.”

Hastings refused an interview with police.


Hasting’s companions had mentioned a trip earlier that evening to Meijer.

Detectives knew that someone who steals change by the pound might be drawn to the Coinstar machine at Meijer, which turns heaps of change into cash in exchange for a cut.

Detectives checked with Meijer security and learned someone that evening had taken a large amount of change to a Coinstar machine.

The investigators got in-store surveillance footage from the time when the Coinstar machine had been used and Gillis recognized Hastings from a still photo generated from the footage.

Later, detectives learned Hastings’s Coinstar transactions that day were worth $428.

Surveillance showed him leave the parking lot in a blue Ford Mustang convertible.


At his sentencing hearing, Hastings apologized to the court for taking up their time. He has a lot of experience in front of a judge.

Hastings has devoted his life to minor crimes that come with relatively short sentences.

His Michigan Department of Corrections rap sheet begins in 1967, when he was sentenced to two to 10 years for breaking and entering. He was sentenced for larceny in a building in 1968, and three to five years in 1972 for breaking and entering.

There were other cases of larceny, receiving stolen property and conspiracy to transport drugs into prison.

Hastings has recently specialized in stealing change. He was convicted of breaking and entering of a coin-operated device in Emmet County in 2000. Hastings also has three previous convictions for the same crime in Ingham County going back to 2007.

And even as he was wanted on a felony warrant in Traverse City, parking meters were apparently calling his name.

Hastings was arrested Dec. 4 in Ferndale along with Craig and another man, suspected of breaking into parking meters there.

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