Residents had an opportunity to ask Farmington Hills Police Chief Jeff King questions at a “Community Conversations” event at The Hawk in April.

Residents had an opportunity to ask Farmington Hills Police Chief Jeff King questions at a “Community Conversations” event at The Hawk in April.

Photo provided by the city of Farmington Hills

Farmington Hills police chief leads ‘Community Conversations’

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published June 5, 2023


FARMINGTON HILLS — Farmington Hills community members recently had the opportunity to directly address Farmington Hills Police Chief Jeff King.

In April, King hosted an event titled “Community Conversations” at The Hawk, where he shared information about topics such as Police Department updates and crime statistics from last year.

At the event, King also answered questions from attendees.

He estimated that there were somewhere around 50 people who attended.

According to King, last year, violent crime in the city was up just over 6%, with “low-level” crimes such as trespassing and littering down 4.2% and sexual assaults down 41%.

He said that there were “zero” homicides and two armed robberies, the lowest in the city’s history.

“Where we felt the biggest changes were property crimes — they were up 55%. They include things like larceny from vehicles and car thefts, which are hitting a high locally and nationally,” King said. “And then fraud-related crimes were up about 300%. Those are some of the big, key trends we see.”

King shared a simple but effective way that residents can avoid being the victim of vehicle-related crimes.

“Lock your cars,” he said. “If you lock your cars it’s that much more difficult (for criminals), and it prevents individuals from just pulling on the door handle, getting into your car and going after your cellphone, going after your personal information, getting your garage door opener, which then accesses the attached garage or the unattached garage, maybe then the door to your home. It leads to those other crimes — crimes of opportunity.”

When feasible, King is a proponent of parking vehicles in secure garages and putting key fobs in a spot where they’re not easily accessible.

He also shared thoughts about residents protecting themselves from fraudulent phone calls. One method fraudsters use is to call individuals and pretend to be affiliated with police departments as a ploy to get money.

“The police are never going to call you and tell you, ‘You have a warrant for your arrest, give me $500.’ Any kind of phone call will be legitimate or there’ll be a knock on your door by a uniformed officer,” King said.

King also provided details about a tool that the Farmington Hills Police Department is utilizing to help bring criminals to justice and solve crimes.

“We have our vehicle identification system that we’re implementing throughout the city, which can identify vehicle license plates and vehicle car makes, as being involved in high-level crimes: missing persons, armed robberies, stolen vehicles, high-level felony-type crimes,” he said. “There’s gotta be a caveat in there that they have nothing to do with any kind of facial recognition or subject identification inside the car. It’s specifically to the license plate or the vehicle itself. … That is showing early on to be a valuable resource for us to get out there and solve crimes.”

King shared one of the major points of discussion from the event.

“The biggest was some of our grant-funded programs for our behavioral mental health program and crisis intervention response training, which is a first in the state, if not the nation,” he said. “We modeled that off of the International Association of Chiefs of Police One Mind campaign, where they have certain parameters, one being a model policy, two being a defined partnership with one community health organization, and then department-wide staff training. … In the Farmington Hills Police Department our model policy exceeds all the model policy requirements. We have clearly defined partnerships with at least six mental health agencies and organizations in our community and 100% of our staff, both dispatch and sworn officers attend mental health first-aid; and then 100% of our staff have attended or will be completing in early October, as part of the grant, a behavioral mental health program, crisis response program, developed with Wayne State University.”

King said that there were over 2,000 mental health-related runs last year, with over 400 of those resulting in an officer petitioning an individual for evaluation by a mental health professional.

As a whole, he said that the Farmington Hills Police Department had 45,000 calls for service last year, with the department on pace to have 59,000 calls for service this year.

Farmington Hills resident Michael Sweeney, who is also a commissioner for the Farmington Hills/Farmington Emergency Preparedness Commission, said people “commented that their interactions with the police have been professional and polite, and they think we have the best-trained, best-mannered, most professional policemen that they’ve met.”

King shared a similar sentiment.

“Probably the overwhelming theme that we got with a lot of the questions was appreciation for the department — the men and women that are going out there and protecting our community and serving our citizens,” he said.

What did get people’s attention at the event is construction projects that are taking place in the area.

“The most exciting conversations was about traffic circles, what the Department of Transportation’s doing with regards to all these construction zones popping up, and how people are behaving badly,” Sweeney said. “Road rage wasn’t mentioned specifically. I think the phrase was, ‘ill-mannered responses.’ … I was kind of surprised that the conversation went over to traffic.”

One of the topics that King was interested in discussing at the event is the current staffing levels at the FHPD.

He said that the department has 163 staff members.

“We talked about something that was very unique, and we are very fortunate, because we are fully staffed,” King said. “We were one of the only police departments in this region to be fully staffed. Not only fully staffed — we actually have personnel in place to meet our staffing levels when five individuals in our command staff and our officer rank (retire) in July of this year. We’re actually ahead of the hiring process. … (It’s) the first time in my, I believe, 28 years here we have reached that level of preparedness for our staffing levels and meeting our staffing levels.”

The FHPD’s staffing level can help the department maintain the kind of statistics that King cited.

“Farmington Hills is routinely, and by routinely I mean annually, ranked as one of the safest cities in various analyses or polls or studies done by external groups,” he said. “We were identified as one of the 50 safest cities to raise a family in 2022, and that was at a national basis. That was based on population, sex offenders per 1,000, violent crimes per 1,000 residents, property crime per 1,000 residents, and so forth.”

Sweeney said that the event was “very peaceful” and that there were no angry words.

“I thought it was very helpful for people to be able to sit in an audience and talk directly to the chief,” he said. “They’re asking the chief their question, and he’s answering their question. That is very satisfying, and it shows an openness that’s really great.”