Utica DDA supports adding emergency phones to improve park safety

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published October 1, 2018

 The Utica Downtown Development Authority discusses adding blue light emergency phones to city parks at its Sept. 27 meeting.

The Utica Downtown Development Authority discusses adding blue light emergency phones to city parks at its Sept. 27 meeting.

Photo by Kara Szymanski

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UTICA —  The Utica Downtown Development Authority at its Sept. 27 meeting discussed possibly installing emergency phones to keep the city’s parks and trails a safe destination for anyone who visits them.

The idea under discussion was to install blue light emergency phones at each park. With the lighted emergency device, someone in need could make a call and it would go directly to the Utica Police Department instead of wherever the cellphone tower sent the call first, which could be an agency other than Utica police.

The DDA voted unanimously to recommend to the City Council the installation of three blue light emergency phones at the city parks.

“We have visited with the Utica police chief and staff and plan to visit Oakland University, and we have researched these blue light towers that you see on campus and at hospitals, and we priced them out and they are from $3,500 upwards to $5,000. The $3,500 ones are hardwired and require a landline phone and electrical service, and the more expensive ones are wireless completely and self-contained. They have cell service and solar power units. We’re looking at those to add to some of the park areas,” said Utica Mayor Thom Dionne.

Oakland University currently has more than 300 of the blue light emergency phones on campus.

The city plans to consider the blue light phones for Heritage Park, Jacqueline K. Noonan Riverwalk Park, Memorial Park and Grant Park, and eventually Pioneer Park.

Grant Park, 8243 Hahn St., was the site of a fatal stabbing Sept. 1. Police arrested a suspect who is now facing a charge of first-degree murder.

“I’ve been talking to the residents near Grant Park. They are very concerned about park safety, and I’ve heard good and mixed reactions about the blue emergency lights, and have heard no negative reactions, so I think we should move quickly to make a decision if it’s a good idea, and I will say I think it’s a great idea. I hope we will move to get this done as quickly as possible,” said DDA member Gus Calandrino.

There are other upgrade options available for the emergency phones. Some of the options include video recording that can capture what is going on, in addition to a phone call. Another is solar power, which would save energy by using sunlight to power the phones.

The City Council will be discussing this topic at its next meeting at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 9 at City Hall, 7550 Auburn Road. The council must approve the emergency phones for the idea to move forward.

For more information on park and trail security, call City Hall at (586) 739-1600.

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