Glencairn Neighbors Meet with Police, City Liaison to Discuss Safety Solutions
Members of the Glencairn neighborhood gathered July 9 at the Hannah Community Center to voice concerns over a perceived uptick in property crimes. Marju Cyrul, vice chair of the Glencairn Neighborhood Association and one of the discussion moderators, said that the number of complaints from residents regarding break-ins has increased in the past year.
On hand to field comments and concerns and provide feedback were Elaine Hardy, the City’s liaison to the Glencairn, Tamarisk and Oakwood neighborhoods, and Lieutenant James Campbell of the East Lansing Police Department.
Lt. Campbell has been with ELPD for 26 years.
“My position with the department is all things community,” he said. “So, when people are having problems with their community and they need something, it usually comes across my desk and I try to make things happen. I decided I would come to this meeting to try to get a feeling for what you guys are dealing with."
The meeting consisted mostly of a back-and-forth with residents voicing their concerns and Campbell listening and trying to offer solutions. The most common crime that residents voiced concerns about were vehicle break-ins where the perpetator will steal whatever is of value from an unlocked car.
“I’ve been in the neighborhood for a couple of years and it seems like it’s kind of a given that if you leave your car unlocked in the driveway, or in your garage, that it's likely that it will be gone through,” Cyrul said. “One of my neighbors who's lived here for thirty or forty years says that it's been happening forever."
She went on to say that what sparked the most recent concern and caused the need for Tuesday's meeting was a recent rash of home break-ins.
“People actually went into the home in the middle of the night—with the people and their babies there—and they stole their car,” Cyrul said.
“I just want to say that happened two doors down from us and it happened about six to eight months ago, too. They came in at night, took all the money from their purses, took the keys and stole a Ford truck from the driveway,” another woman added.
Neighborhood Watch group needed?
One attendee voiced her frustration at what suggested is an inadequate response from ELPD.
“The message that we're getting seems to be that if you just lock your doors you’ll be fine. It feels like that’s dismissive, it's still a crime. It just feels like it a regular event, ‘Hey it’s three o'clock in the morning let's go through Glencairn.' It just feels too routine. Do we need to start doing shifts monitoring the neighborhood at night?”
A resident then mentioned that, at the entrance to the neighborhood, there is a Neighborhood Watch sign, but, "If there is a Neighborhood Watch, we’ve never heard of it, and maybe that's our responsibility."
“I put up those signs probably in 2010," Lt. Campbell said. “The emphasis is on the neighborhood starting the watch group and the officers supporting what that group wants to do."
He encouraged the meeting participants to consider re-forming a Neighborhood Watch group.
Glencairn is located near some of Michigan State University's largest fraternities and attendees of the meetings have said that the parties tend to spill over into their neighborhood.
“We had a Christmas tree that was stolen off our front porch that was wired down, and I had the video and it was students,” one attendee said. “It's a fine line living by a university with what's a prank and then what's more than that.”
Several participants of Tuesday's meeting said that they are embarrassed by the perceived rising property crimes in Glencairn. One in particular recalled meeting a new neighbor with unpleasant news.
“We just had a guy move in like three months ago and he came up to me and said, ‘Someone went through my car last night,’ and I said, ‘Oh, I forgot to tell you,' and it was kind of embarrassing that that was his welcome to the neighborhood.”
Lt. Campbell noted that that recorded crime rates have actually stayed about the same over the last few years.
Residents are also frustrated with how fast people are driving through the neighborhood.
“I’ll be honest, though ,when I did call and report it, you did station an officer in the neighborhood to radar [check speed],” one participant conceded.
“There's a definite frustration and I think the underlying issue in all this frustration is the lack of communication coming back from the police department and also getting to the police department," Lt. Campbell said. “I would never say the reason why this crime is happening is that people don't lock their doors, they don't lock their windows. That's not it.”
What about more patrols?
A few residents suggested adding additional patrols and officers to the neighborhood.
Lt. Campbell then paused and asked the audience, “How many officers do you think we have out patrolling on each shift?”
“Twenty or thirty, at least, right?” one attendee wondered.
“We have four officers working per shift,” Lt. Campbell said, and the crowd went silent. “And that's four officers for the entire city of East Lansing, so they are spread pretty thin. If you tell us about something, we're going to try to make contact, but other than that, we're on the run going to calls. We're behind the eight ball because it’s all reactionary.”
According to Lt. Campbell, ELPD had 72 officers on its force in 2010 and that number has decreased to 51, even as the population of the city has continued to grow.
“Has the income tax not helped at all?” a resident asked.
“The income tax has helped us maintain that 51. We have seven officers retiring next year and the city has OK’d us to replace all of them,” said Lt. Campbell, who is planning to retire within the next year.
“Of those 51, how many of them live in the City of East Lansing?” one attendee asked.
“I would probably say six and those are usually younger officers who get a job and move here from out of town,” Lt. Campbell said. “A lot of our officers—and I'll be completely honest with you—they can't afford to live in East Lansing.”
“If you could have more support, what would you want?” an attendee asked.
Lt. Campbell replied, "When I started my career, our numbers were going up and up, and we were able to do more and more. We had a lot of things we could address the youth with. If it were me, I would like to add more officers to do community-related things. But that is something you would have to talk to City Council about."
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