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Harper Woods

November 16, 2012

Cops nab 14 felony suspects in one weekend

By April Lehmbeck
C & G Staff Writer

HARPER WOODS — Crime is on the rise in Harper Woods, and police are working with less manpower, but that hasn’t stopped the department from getting criminals off the streets.

Police made 14 felony arrests in one weekend alone, and Police Chief James Burke is proud of his crew and the work they are doing.

“Our police have done a fantastic job,” Burke said, praising both the patrol crew under Lt. Robert Hunter and the detectives under Detective Lt. Ted Stager.

“Detective Lt. Ted Stager and his crew have been tireless in their efforts to go after these serious criminals,” Burke said, adding that, when they pursue criminals, “they don’t stop. They just keep going and going.”

Those tireless efforts played out in a major way during the weekend of Nov. 9, when police brought in 14 suspects for felony crimes.

“Although the total number of felony arrests was unusual for only a single weekend, the type of calls received and the frequency of those calls have become common- place,” Hunter stated in a department memo.

The 14 weekend arrests were for crimes that included armed robbery, home invasions and assault with intent to murder.

Those arrests include suspects in a recent shooting at McDonald’s. They were looking for the shooting suspect all week and made arrests on Nov. 10.

Another suspect that they brought in was a resident on Woodland, who allegedly placed a gun to the head of a man who was walking down the street. Police also believe that same suspect allegedly shot at a paper-delivery person on the street a month earlier, shooting out the back windshield of the man’s vehicle. They recovered a loaded gun from the home, police said.

The department also handled other calls and made arrests for smaller crimes. And chasing criminals wasn’t the only work the department handled that weekend.

“In addition to crime fighting, our officers also dressed for two fires this weekend, supplementing the fire department,” Hunter stated.

The department is not legally allowed to serve as cross-trained firefighters for the city, due to a judicial ruling concerning the city’s charter, but they were called to help Grosse Pointe Woods, which was in Harper Woods as mutual aid.

An example of the upsurge in crimes that Harper Woods is seeing is the 23 home invasions the city has had since Oct. 1. Other crimes are up, as well, compared to last year, including robberies going up 35 percent and automobile theft going up 12 percent for the same time period.

“We’ve had a very significant upsurge in serious crime,” Burke said.

Burke said he doesn’t want to frighten residents. He wants to highlight the extraordinary work the police continue to do. He wants residents to know that police are on the streets, getting suspects out of the neighborhoods.

The department is down 11 police officers from previous years, but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at all the work the officers and detectives are putting into it. The department continues to be ahead of other local departments, when it comes to things like arrest numbers.

“There’s no other department that has the volume of arrests,” Hunter said. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult, when we’re down 30 percent of our staff.”

While Burke praised Hunter for the work of his crew, Hunter said he takes no praise for their phenomenal work.

“They’re sacrificing their family time to maintain our minimum standards,” Hunter said of the officers. “Our guys are always here.”

The department has one of the top ratings for closing cases of serious crimes in the state, Burke said.

“We’re doing everything we can,” Burke said. “The good news is that our police officers’ arrests are also up.”

Maintaining that workload with the significantly smaller staff isn’t feasible in the long term, however. Burke hopes the city manager and city council continues to work on the budget issues so that they can fix their staffing issues.

“The detective bureau is strained beyond anything I have ever seen,” Burke said.

The department has lost officers but cannot replace them, due to the budgetary constraints the city is under. They are down to 25 officers and are dealing with an upsurge in crime. 

“We need to return our manpower numbers at least to what we were in 2011, but more are necessary to effectively address the wave of crime impacting our community,” Hunter stated in the memo.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer April Lehmbeck at alehmbeck@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1043.