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Posted on Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor City Council asks DDA to help fund downtown beat cops

By Ryan J. Stanton

The Ann Arbor City Council went on record Monday night asking the Downtown Development Authority to fund three new downtown police officers.

The council is asking the DDA's governing board to consider the request at its next meeting, which is this Wednesday at noon.


Ann Arbor City Council members want the DDA to consider funding a stronger police presence downtown.

Ryan J. Stanton |

If the request is approved by the DDA, City Administrator Steve Powers is directed to increase the police budget accordingly and commence the hiring process.

The resolution — sponsored by Council Members Jane Lumm, Sally Hart Petersen and Sumi Kailasapathy — was approved by council in an 8-2 vote with opposition from Christopher Taylor and Margie Teall.

Chuck Warpehoski was absent.

The sponsors brought forward the resolution as a follow-up to remarks made by Mayor John Hieftje last month.

In last month's city budget deliberations, Hieftje and five other council members blocked an attempt to add three police officer positions to the city's budget. Hieftje said at the time he would instead try to get the DDA to help fund downtown beat cops.

He said there had been talks of adding two downtown beat cops and another community standards officer that would be responsible for patrolling parks downtown, including Liberty Plaza.

"I'm happy to continue discussions at the DDA," Hieftje said again Monday night. "I can't predict how the DDA, though, in light of everything that has gone on, is going to look at this."

Hieftje was referencing the ongoing debate over the DDA's tax revenues and efforts by some council members to slow the growth of those revenues. Taylor said it might not be unreasonable for the DDA to be "gun shy" at this point.

"I think we need to rebuild a relationship of trust and respect with the DDA," he said. "I understand it is useful and good for us to communicate to them, and for them to communicate to us. However, I think this takes place in a larger context."

Lumm, an Independent from the 2nd Ward, noted council members identified public safety as one of five top budget priorities at a retreat in December.

She also noted Police Chief John Seto has indicated the city's police force is largely reactive and expanding proactive policing efforts could go a long way toward improving service.

"For years, the DDA and downtown businesses have identified a need for downtown beat cops," she added, calling a safe downtown an essentially element of a vibrant, growing downtown.

Lumm reminded her colleagues they already set a precedent of advising the DDA how to spend its money when they passed a budget amendment last month encouraging the DDA to allocate hundreds of thousands of dollars toward affordable housing and new light poles on Main Street.

"While we don't control how the DDA spends its money, we can suggest items we believe are priorities and ask the DDA to consider funding them," she said.

Lumm said the DDA budgets for the next two years include grant expenditures of roughly $1.6 million each year, and $400,000 in both years is unassigned and could serve as the funding source for additional officers. The cost of an additional officer is about $90,000 annually.

Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, cautioned simply adding numbers to the police department's ranks doesn't necessarily assure the quality of police work.

She said quality is what she's most concerned about, and she hopes the council can move the discussion beyond numbers and into policy.

Seto said there aren't any city police officers specifically assigned to the DDA area right now, but the city does generally have about 12 to 14 officers over two shifts assigned to patrol the larger downtown area, which he described as being bound by Huron, Main, Stadium and Packard.

"It's well known Ann Arbor is one of the safer cities in the nation, and I think the downtown is equally a safe place," Hieftje said, suggesting more police officers won't necessarily reduce crime.

"My interest in having more presence downtown is more of the nuisance things that I think people are aware of," he said. "We don't have a lot of crime there, certainly for a city our size."

Hieftje said DDA board members have talked for years about the idea of having downtown ambassadors. He described them as "friendly faces" who could provide directions, assist people with various needs, report things like trash violations, and have direct links to police officers.

"I'm either walking or cycling downtown almost every day, and we do have a police presence down there," Hieftje added.

Petersen, D-2nd Ward, said there has been an increasing number of break-ins in her ward, which extends up to the city's northeast side from downtown.

"I would say that perception of public safety is probably high for someone until they've had a problem, and I think having the presence of beat cops downtown does dissuade problems from happening in the first place," she said.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Wed, Jun 5, 2013 : 2:21 a.m.

Wait. So Mayor Hieftje doesn't think downtown has a lot of crime, but when there were several issues of fights, stabbings and shootings at two particular bar business that were frequent by a "certain" clientele he fought tough and nail to have those business closed. Problem solved. Use the power of the attorney's office to just close the business. Having a greater police presence at those troubled business might have prevented their closing. Still, this same mayor who is either walking or cycling downtown almost every day says there is a police presence. Does he ever walk or cycle Friday or Saturday nights from 10pm to 2:30am?


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 6:09 p.m.

We don't need beat cops, we need drones. With sensors that can smell a spray paint can from miles away, and speech recognition that listens for 'spare some change'? Then a missile armed with tons of righteous indignation is launched to deliver a summons to the 15th district court. Seriously, I think downtown Ann Arbor is quite safe. But then, I'm almost never there past midnight, and that seems to be the time when bad things happen. Oh, and in case you missed it: the first paragraph of my post was dripping with sarcasm.

you can't handle the truth

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 5:46 p.m.

There needs to be cops patrolling downtown. That is common sense. And for how ridiculously high Ann Arbor taxes are, how can this can be such a fiasco is pretty incredible.


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 5:41 p.m.

Hopefully they could clear out the panhandlers and miscreants. I witnessed a "bumfight" that spilled into the street earlier this year and it is very annoying to be constantly asked for money when trying to enjoy downtown and a day of hard work!


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 5:37 p.m.

It seems like something is glaringly absent from this article... The DDA's position. Did anybody bother asking them how they felt about it before writing this?


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 4:51 p.m.

@Goofus: Correct. The current police force can't seem to get a handle on some punks with spray cans or the bums. We need to hire a private company like Blackwater, etc.


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 4:46 p.m.

Do it.


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 4:02 p.m.

Why do we need beat cops when all the graffiti artists and panhandlers seem to be doing so well? Let's pour that money into public art projects and tax-breaks for dorm builders instead!

Linda Peck

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 3:43 p.m.

Finally, some response to our pleas. Let's hope this happens now.

Dog Guy

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

EMU and U of M now have their own police forces; why shouldn't the Downtown Government establish a DDA police force? The officers could have highly visible and festive multicolored uniforms including bells on the caps to warn away malefactors.


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 12:54 p.m.

""I'm happy to continue discussions at the DDA," Hieftje said again Monday night. "I can't predict how the DDA, though, in light of everything that has gone on, is going to look at this."" Can you imagine president Obama saying something like that about his appointees? "Golly, I can't predict how the military, in light of everything, is going to look at this". I guess we see which government rules the downtown.

Steve Bean

Wed, Jun 5, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

Pretty weak analogy, Brad. Are you here to garner favor with the curmudgeon crowd or are you interested in the welfare of the community? If the latter (and I think that's the case), do you have anything to offer?

Top Cat

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 1:36 p.m.

Obama is pretending that he has nothing to do withe IRS, State Department and the Justice Department. I can surely imagine him saying that about the military. Pretty sad, isn't it?

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 12:50 p.m.

This is just a thinly veiled attempt to justify the outrageous use of taxpayer funds by the unelected DDA. Downtown doesn't need more cops. That isn't where the crime is.


Wed, Jun 5, 2013 : 3:43 a.m.



Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 12:45 p.m.

I work downtown often, and the Maynard sub-station is never open, the bikes are parked inside. I wouldn't mind seeing a few more of these bikes in use, maybe they could help take care of the big-city problems we seem to be having, like aggressive panhandling, graffiti and other property crimes. I know it is not about the number of officers but the quality of the service, still, I would rather see this money going to public safety and outreach which serves us all, than to public art or studies for unneeded convention centers. After all, it is our money, even if the authority for spending it has been inexplicably handed to the DDA.


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 12:35 p.m.

Does anyone think the DDA will give up anything without a fight?


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 12:55 p.m.

Does anyone think that this hasn't already been decided?


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 12:12 p.m.

There is very little crime downtown, unless you count parking enforcement, store rents, and various destructively expensive DDA policies and plans.


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 4:03 p.m.

And all the ugly graffiti and aggressive panhandlers and drunks.

Jay Thomas

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : noon

I want to see cops out there walking the beat.

Silly Sally

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 11:51 a.m.

" downtown area, which he described as being bound by Huron, Main, Stadium and Packard." Packard? this leaves out much of the downtown area, including the area where the old Borders once was west to City Hall. The late night mini crime areas by south U are also omited by this description. Oh, how silly! Getting more beat cops, on bicycles in the summer, is a great idea, and Chief Seto is a good man. Go get 'em!


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 11:45 a.m.

"'While we don't control how the DDA spends its money, we can suggest items we believe are priorities and ask the DDA to consider funding them,' she said." Correct me if I'm wrong, but does not the "DDA's money" source largely from parking contracts ceded by the City and a share of property tax collections from downtown properties? Isn't this money that the City could collect directly, were it not for the DDA? Why again is the DDA a necessary level of semi-private quasi-bureaucracy? Why could its aims and goals not be accomplished by the City directly? How does it make sense that DDA has any part at all in determining provision of City services of any variety?

Steve Bean

Wed, Jun 5, 2013 : 12:52 p.m.

You're partly wrong. Some of the DDA's TIF capture is from taxes that would otherwise go to the county, the AADL, and WCC.


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 10:16 p.m.

Excellent post. This is exactly it, and the mayor's posturing and faux-contrition for alleged slights committed against the saintly DDA that exist exclusively in his imagination are pathetic.


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 11:39 a.m.

Now that would be something useful for the DDA to take on rather than the other "fluff" projects they support.


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 11:07 a.m.

Council wisely agreed at their retreat that policing should be looked at in relation to a wide variety of factors ( including crime rates which are at or near 10 year lows) and not a simple head count of beat officers. This, of course, is how informed and intelligent governments staff public safety departments. Lets hope this "consider this" request to the DDA isn't a sign we are moving away from good policy to appease the "must have more police at any cost, I don't care what the crime statistics say" trolls.


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 4:32 p.m.

and are they to apply this same logic to, lets say, road quality?? you know, try to make our ox cart paths more like real roads?


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 1:14 p.m.

They shouldn't and I wasn't suggesting they should. Merely pointing out that the actual facts show that we live in an exceptionally safe small City and that the answer to everything isn't to just add more police. Crime happens. The question is at what levels and would additional officers help. Everything I've seen (except from the police union) says no, but people here don't like to be troubled with the facts or intelligent decision making. They see every petty little offense reported here and they think they live in Gotham and they never bother to even look at the actual facts.


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 12:34 p.m.

Tell us again why the DDA should be involved in this decision whatsoever. Who are they to be involved in any such decision? We aren't talking about planters here.


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 11:04 a.m.

What a sham our shadow government is.


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 10:45 a.m.

So now the city has to bow to the DDA's decision??? Are you kidding me!?! How about the idiot-in-charge mandates the DDA to do this or cut their funding? When is the idiot-in-charge ever in downtown? I havent seen a beat cop in downtown in well over a year...


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 10:36 a.m.

Aren't there enough in Starbucks already?


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 5:12 p.m.

we don't need more Starbuck's but it'll be pleasant to have a few Dunkin Donuts though ... Tim Horton's and Krispy Kremes just don't cut it.


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 10:31 a.m.

While I welcome more police officers, they should be paid for from the general fund rather than the DDA. If any future cuts (or, really, limitations of growth) on the DDA are proposed the first thing we'll hear is that if the cuts go through then the police officers will be cut. Likewise, if future cuts to the police force are planned then will the officers paid for by the DDA be treated separately? Perhaps the solution would be for the DDA to give an unrestricted grant to the City to provide security for downtown.


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 10:19 p.m.

Your points are right on. Perhaps an even better solution would be for the city to reduce DDA funding by whatever it wants to for additional police, and tell them that if they don't like it they can take along walk on a short pier.


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

@craigjjs: I am very wary of the City becoming reliant on DDA funding as it will be difficult to be weaned from the golden spigot once it starts flowing. Either a one-time grant or ongoing grant would be nice with the money specifically earmarked for downtown security. The decision about how much security is needed would be left to the Police Chief and City, but there should be certain minimums set in advance as to expectations as well as clear measures that could be used to benchmark and evaluate the efficacy of the program.


Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 11:10 a.m.

That's a very good point. That is exactly what would likely happen. Are you talking about an ongoing annual grant or a one time grant? It is hard to imagine the DDA would make a large enough one time grant to fund the officers for more than a year or two. I wonder if there are other ways to protect that DDA officer funding.

Boo Radley

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 11:09 a.m.

Very good points, and a great idea ... Having the DDA contract for dedicated police services would be the best way to approach this.