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Local Police Officials Fear Continuing Crime Rise in '71

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Local Police Officials Fear Continuing Crime Rise In ’71

By William B. Treml

“You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Jimmy Durante made that saying famous but two local police agency leaders are borrowing it as they view the crime scene for 1971.

Undersheriff Harold J. Owings Jr. of the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department and Ann Arbor Police Chief Walter E. Krasny are only “hoping” that the “peak” has already been reached.

But both officers agree that 1970 was the “biggest” crime year in the history of their departments.

"I don’t see how the work load can decrease in 1971,” Owings says. The undersheriff, speaking for Sheriff Douglas J. Harvey who is still recovering from a blood clot and surgery, points out that the Sheriff’s Department averaged more than 1,000 criminal complaints per month and over 2,000 "noncriminal” calls during 1970.

‘‘We’ve been recording gradual increases each year for the past five years but this year there’s been a tremendous climb,” Owings says. “We’ve been increasing about 16 to 18 per cent in this five-year period. Much of this

increase has appeared in the violent crime category.”

Chief Krasny agrees with the undersheriff that 1970 was a “bad” crime year for the area. To prove his point the chief has only to point to the 26 armed robberies in the city in 24 days of November and the 50 house and business burglaries committed in Ann Arbor in a 48-hour period. In addition, there were 32 house break-ins in the southwest section of the city in a single night, he points out.

“We’re hoping the peak has been reached and that there’ll be a decline in ’71,” Krasny says. “But of course we’re doing more than just hoping. We’re increasing manpower, beefing up patrols when we can and going more to sophisticated crime detection devices in an effort to slow this trend.”

The veteran chief who this year will begin his 32nd year in police work, noted that Ann Arbor has problems which are peculiar to any “one-industry” city.

“We’re not an industrial community. We’re centered around the University. The well-paying positions in such an institution naturally must go to the best-

educated, best-trained persons. The unskilled, untrained people have limited opportunity and this creates an economic squeeze which many times leads to crime,” he says.

Krasny believes that a massive addition of patrolmen to his department is not the entire answer to halting the crime increase. He says a “crash” program to obtain many new officers and put them on the street is probably impractical because of the time it takes to select and test them, train them and provide them with proper “in service” supervision.

“It’s more difficult then it ever was to get police recruits,” the chief says. “This can be traced to the almost daily instances of police officers somewhere in the nation being assaulted, killed or held up to public ridicule by radical elements. With industry actively seeking bright, young men who will be paid generous salaries, a recruit has to be really interested in police work to turn down some of these job offers.”

Undersheriff Owings says his department’s search for prospective officers has become more intense in the past

year as industry presents lucrative offers to young men. He says many of the men hired in 1970 came to the Sheriff’s Department from other police agencies in Michigan, some with a considerable amount of experience.

But Owings says the rate of hiring no matter what the appropriation for the department cannot keep up with the booming county crime rate.

“National standards for a county of 700 square miles and a 200,000 population as is Washtenaw calls for eight to nine patrol cars on the road for every work shift,” he notes. “With days off, sick leave, court time and other necessary appearances by officers we are lucky to have half that number on the road much of the time.”

As has been the case in former years, 1970 saw almost 50 per cent of all criminal action investigated by sheriff’s deputies occur in the eastern section of the county embracing Superior and Ypsilanti Townships, the undersheriff says. Criminal cases in 18 of the 20 townships in the county equal the rate recorded in 1970 in Superior-Ypsilanti, he said.

Under a contract arrangement with

Ypsilanti Township, off-duty deputies man a scout car in that area much of the time, but if a movement to establish a full-time police force for the township materializes this year that arrangement will be ended.

Chief Krasny says it is his hope that with the assigning of two city patrolmen full time to the University campus, disorders which plagued the city and the student body in 1970 will end. The two officers, Charles Ferguson and John Atkinson, are both college graduates. They were selected specifically by Police-Community Relations Lt. Kenneth B. Klinge for the pilot project on the campus. It is hoped the officers will open lines of communication between the campus and city officials, especially city police.

The chief said the outlook for his department this year is “much better” as far as local social issues are concerned.

“One of our major goals for 1971 will be the blunting of effect by the hate groups on the right and the left,” he said. “No hate group wants or promotes progress and we intend to do our best to

make them useless.”

Both Krasny and Owings agreed that the “response time” for answers to calls by officers from their departments is lengthening as the overall work load increases. They said both patrolmen and deputies “roll immediately” on any emergency call but that routine assignments must await available time.

“For our department that could be anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, perhaps even an hour if all cars are tied up,” Owings explains. “But with only 39 deputies actually assigned to road patrol duty it’s the best you can do.”

The undersheriff says because of a manpower shortage his men are doing “virtually nothing” in the crime prevention field.

“When you’re running over 200 traffic accidents a month and 40 to 50 house burglaries in the same period there’s low priority on crime prevention,” he says.

Owings says he looks for little or no slow down in 1971 crime rates because of a growing county population and “the general unwillingness of the unlawful element to change attitudes.”