By Scott Sullivan
Since assuming Saugatuck city policing from a department formerly shared with Douglas July 1, 2018, Allegan County Sheriff’s deputies have been busy here.
At a March 6 open house co-sponsored by the department with city council members Russ Gardner and Lauren Stanton, police welcomed guests and shared information about Saugatuck public safety since then and where it now stands.
In partial year 2018 deputies answered 716 service calls, in a full 12-month 2019 1,218 calls. Numbers dropped in pandemic year 2020 to 852, rose to 1,069 in 2021 and 1,124 in 2022. This year’s first two winter months saw 96.
The contract between the city and sheriff’s office was renegotiated in 2021 so, effective Jan. 1, 2022, it automatically renews yearly through 2024 unless terminated.
The city paid $369,788 in 2021, $368,903 last year and has budgeted $401,000 for protection this year, an increase attributed to costs for fuel, overtime, reserves and vehicle rental. Contract copies were available at the meeting.
Now serving the city under Sgt. Ben Haas are county deputies Jason Kruithoff, Nick Haskill, Connor LaJoice and Phil Klinge plus reserves when needed.
Officers here have made 2,530 traffic stops since July 1, 2018, stepping up to last year’s 887 high. They have issued 1,490 citations, 491 in 2022 again being high, of which 585 were for speeding. Most complaints come from Park and Holland streets, Allegan Street between Elizabeth and Maple streets, North Maple Street and North Street.
“Your deputies,” read printouts, “are aware and attempt directed patrol and utilize discretion as needed.” They have worked with city leaders to place awareness signs that notify motorists of their speed on Allegan, Park, Lake and Holland streets, the handout said.
Deputies also pick these locations to park and be visible to motorists while doing reports or other work in their patrol vehicles.
Work is not always routine. Year one started fast with, among other things, a 39-year-old Holland male leaving Coral Gables intoxicated, driving his car into the Kalamazoo River and drowning, plus a 58-year-old longtime former convict breaking into Star of Saugatuck offices to steal $2,000 in cash plus seven liquor bottles. Local leads plus DNA testing led to his arrest.
• In 2019 a 15-year-old boy sent several school shooting threats via social media that resulted in searching the suspect’s phone.
• In Covid year 2020 a male, 28, and female, 19, embezzled $1,600 worth of merchandise and close to $5,000 in cash from The Spice Merchants. Employee interviews led to the thieves’ confessions.
In 2021 a 16-year-old who damaged city restrooms at the Main and Butler streets intersection was, thanks to community leads, caught on surveillance camera, interviewed and arrested.
Also that year, a 35-year-male was reported taking pictures of a female in an apartment above Kilwin’s Ice Cream. A search of his cell phone found child sexually abusive material leading to the man’s conviction.
Last year the department handled a 78-year-old woman drowning at Oval Beach, helping provide a safe scene for medical personnel and alerting family.
Most, though not all, of these incidents were reported in The Commercial, many with names and more details at the time.
To report emergencies, call 9-1-1 for immediate Central Dispatch. For information, call (269) 673-3899.
By Scott Sullivan