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Posted on Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Police see early signs of success in summer crime suppression plan in West Willow

By Tom Perkins


While out on bike patrol, Sheriff's Department deputies talked with a concerned West Willow resident whose daughter living nearby recently had her lawnmower stolen.

Tom Perkins | For

On a recent bicycle patrol through Ypsilanti Township’s West Willow neighborhood, Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department deputies Jim Roy and Nick Krings stopped a car driven by a known drug-dealing suspect. The man fled and ran out of view. Roy and Krings temporarily lost his trail until a resident pointed to where the man was hiding behind two houses and said, “He went that way.”

The man, who was wanted on several felony warrants, was then apprehended, thanks in part to the resident's assistance.

“A couple years ago, that never would have happened and we would have gone right by the houses,” Roy said. He said residents in the past didn’t trust police enough to offer them assistance, but that is changing this summer.

With a two-pronged summer operation that includes a violent crime squad and a more visible neighborhood unit dedicated to addressing neighborhoods' quality of life issues, the Sheriff’s Department hopes to reduce crime in several problematic Ypsilanti Township areas over the summer.

As part of the community policing team Roy, Krings and other deputies are out on foot and bike almost daily in the West Willow, Sugarbrook and Ecorse- Harris Road neighborhoods of Ypsilanti Township. The area lies between Michigan Avenue and Ford Lake, east of the City of Ypsilanti. It's bounded by Harris Road on the west and McCartney Avenue on the east.

The approach helps the deputies regularly meet and interact with residents and improve what some say was a formerly strained relationship between the neighborhood and Sheriff's Department. Those improved relationships, police officials say, will help deputies fight crime.

Another strategy officials are testing this summer is using five public surveillance cameras that can be moved throughout the West Willow neighborhood. The plan is to have the cameras face public parks and streets, but never directly into or at anyone’s home. Several of the cameras are up but haven’t been used as township officials resolve logistical issues.

Although it’s still too early in the operation to fully determine the new measures' effectiveness, Lt. Jim Anuszkiewicz is encouraged by some trends he sees in his weekly reports to Ypsilanti Township officials.

Weapons offenses have increased by 23 percent this year, which Anuszkiewicz said is due in large part to officers making an extra effort to enforce gun laws and get guns off the street.

One of the primary concerns over the last nine months has been an increase in gun violence. Lt. Anuszkiewicz said there were two murders in 2010, but four in the first three months of 2011, and the township also saw a spate of attacks with firearms in the early part of the year.

From January 1 through April 30, which marked the beginning of the summer operation, assault crimes were up 37 percent over last year. Assault crimes include everything from shootings to assault to armed robbery. Weekly reports indicate those crimes have decreased by 9 percent since May 1, despite that they traditionally increase during summer months.

Officials declined to provide details on how the violent crime unit operates except to say that it is targeting West Willow and several other neighborhoods where violent crimes are a problem.

Although the community policing team's impact on crime may be less tangible, its work is just as important, officials say.

On a recent afternoon, as Roy and Krings rode their bikes through West Willow, residents waved and thanked the deputies for their efforts, and several approached them with concerns.

Roy and Krings, who were picked for the beat because of a spotless track record in interacting with the community, said people are a lot more open with officers on bikes than they are with officers in a patrol car. The patrol car presents a literal and figurative barrier.


Sheriff's department deputies are trying to build better relationships and interact more with the neighborhood's residents.

Tom Perkins | For

“People are a lot more forthcoming with us out here on bikes,” Krings said. “Being on a bike instead of in a patrol car breaks that barrier down and people are more willing to approach us. They see our faces a couple times and they’re much more willing to help us out.

“But for the most part we’re just trying to be as visible as possible.”

The officers said they receive more tips on issues large and small. When some kids were recently knocking down tree branches and throwing them in the street, a resident stopped the deputies as they rode past and reported the behavior.

They give out their cell phone numbers to residents so residents can call them directly instead of having to dial 9-1-1 and speak to someone they don’t know. Often Krings and Roy deal with quality of life issues — vicious dog problems, vandalism, loud music — and pay close attention to the area's juvenile population.

Sheriff's department spokesman Derrick Jackson said deputies are also paying closer attention to homes where they respond to more calls or where repeat offenders live. Deputies are knocking on their doors, talking to those residents and letting them know the police are there and watching, he said.

Jackson said the more personal service and proactive policing is a better all-around approach for the community and the department.


Sheriff's Department deputies Nick Krings and Jim Roy meet with a resident while out on bike patrol in West Willow.

Tom Perkins | For

“We’re not just out there arresting people, but addressing the root causes of crime,” he said. “Ultimately we’re still trying to solve crime, but we’re trying to do it in a little smarter way by becoming an integral part of community. That is the impetus for this summer plan.”

Jackson also said the community policing strategy helps with safety perception. West Willow accounts for 5.5 percent of the Township’s population and about 7.5 percent of its crime. Jackson said that isn’t particularly disproportionate, but the perception is that it is an unsafe neighborhood historically. A visible community policing team helps make residents feel safe. Linda Mealing is a member of the New West Willow Neighborhood Association and has lived in West Willow since 1971. She said she has seen deputies biking through the community this summer and believes the community policing team is an effective idea for the neighborhood.

“I’m feeling positive about some of the changes being done,” she said. “I think (the sheriff’s department) is listening to us at our neighborhood meetings, listening to the complaints, and I feel that they’ve had made a lot of good changes that have needed to be done since the new sheriff has been there.”

She said her biggest concern remains home invasions, which officials say are down 8 percent in the township overall this year. But she said the neighborhoods’ residents have a responsibility to remain alert and vigilant.

“It’s our neighborhood and we have our part to do and we have to do what we can to help them be more effective,” she said.

Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530. For more Ypsilanti area stories, visit our Ypsilanti page.


Monica R-W

Sat, Jul 9, 2011 : 4:50 p.m.

Great story Tom! Thanks for this positive news about law enforcement and residents working together to improve the historical West Willow Community! Monica Ross-Williams New West Willow Neighborhood Association Governmental Advisory Board Member Ypsilanti Township Parks Commissioner


Fri, Jul 8, 2011 : 5:46 a.m.

This is so great to hear, residents and police working together. KUDOS to all involved. This will help youngsters respect the police officers, and not fear them. (to many children are afraid, due to instances they have seen) It made my heart feel good to see the officer reaching out to a child in the picture.


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 11:46 p.m.

so why do we never see these story about Ann Arbor?


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 9:31 p.m.

It's hard to believe but it has been five years since Clifton Lee, Jr. died in West Willow, an event which rocked the Sheriff's Department and led to the rise of Jerry Clayton. By all accounts that I have heard there has been improvement under Sheriff Clayton and better relations with West Willow residents. Rest in Peace, Clifton.

zip the cat

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 6:09 p.m.

Let see em ride there bikes around at night, ya right


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 4:39 p.m.

This is outstanding work! It is exactly what Ann Arbor PD did for years and that's why the quality of life is as good as it is in Ann Arbor. I'm just waiting for the City officials to realize this before the element being displaced in West Willow sees the soft target in Ann Arbor and then Ann Arbor residence are worrying about the same things they are trying to fix in West Willow. No matter what the Police Chief says the level of services that the police in the city can provide has and will continue to fall. There used to be downtown beat officers on Main, State Street and South University as well as officers assigned to lower income housing. All of those officer dealt wih the same issues they are in West Willow (quality of life) and knowing the criminal element. Good job WCSD! Take note Ann Arbor City, you've gone from leaders to followers!!


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 4:14 p.m.

this will be a great improvement to the area!


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 4:13 p.m.

I'm glad that while other neighborhoods in Washtenaw County's jurisdiction are being neglected the residents of one of the poorest areas which supplies little of the county tax base is seeing an increase in police resources. I'd love to have bike patrol officers riding through every neighborhood in our area; or perhaps a special violent crime squad could be better served in areas of the county that actually care about their community or neighborhood. West Willow does have a few residents that would like to live in a safe area but lets face it based on their interaction with police and their unwillingness to discipline their children or raise their children up as law abiding citizens they don't deserve extra police patrols. Ypsilanti Township residents should be outraged that now the west willow thugs will be coming to your neighborhood because the police are driving them out of theirs. I was much happier with them shooting up their own neighborhood. If you don't believe me check the crime reports out of Ann Arbor for the last few weeks. Sorry West Willow but you did this too yourself, the police can't fix your problems they can just redirect the criminals into other neighborhoods.


Fri, Jul 8, 2011 : 6:42 a.m.

@ SW40, "I'd love to have bike patrol officers riding through every neighborhood in our area" - what area is that? I'd like to see the Crime Map of "our area".

tom swift jr.

Fri, Jul 8, 2011 : 2:06 a.m.

Wow. Lots of hate here. I feel bad for you.

Not from around here

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 6:01 p.m.

I'm sure the county divides up the money by population-or at least they should. How bout some expendiure figures based on population A2.COM?

Angela Barbash

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 5:19 p.m.

Wow, your statements are incredibly generalized and inaccurate. I know families in this neighborhood that clear $300k a year in income. Many of us own businesses, we have properties outside of West Willow, there are many masters degrees and several doctorates here, we have well disciplined children, and most of all we care. We get attention because we're a squeaky wheel -- become a squeaky wheel for your area and you'll have a better chance of getting more resources. Instead of being outraged that we're driving the criminals out of our neighborhood, other Township and County residents should be proactively preventing their neighborhood from getting hit next. We didn't hatch these criminals out of our neighborhood -- most of them emigrated from Wayne County. And you were much happier with 'them shooting up their own neighborhood'? That's an awful thing to say.


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 4:44 p.m.

It sounds to me like you have spent little to no time in West Willow. I have had the opportunity to speak with a majority of the residents and it seems to me that the majority are in favor of having a more peaceful neighborhood. Unfortunately, the small group of people (in comparison to the entire population of the area) that cause problems are able to make it look like everybody is in the wrong. Before making assumptions about people's lives and views, I suggest you get to know them first.

Angela Barbash

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.

Thank you Tom for taking to the time to provide a mid-summer report on the strategy that WCSO and the residents are employing this year. From what people who've been here longer than I, there hasn't been this much cooperation between the neighborhood and the Sheriff's Department since the mid-90's when it was a dire situation. It's clear that between the increased patrols, the dedicated officers, the attention that the Township has given to our concerns, the canvassing that residents are doing, the Citizen Patrol team, and just the overall increased awareness of residents within their own community, we are in a much better position this summer over last summer. If you're a resident in West Willow, or the neighboring communities, we welcome you to join us at our Neighborhood Meeting this Monday July 11th 7:00-8:30pm at the Community Resource Center (CRC) at 2057 Tyler Road. Deputies Roy and Krings come each month to report out the previous month's activities and outstanding issues. We'll also be hosting a tour of our community garden and the projects that the children have been working on in the summer program, all coordinated by resident volunteers. Thanks again to everyone in the community for your support -- Angela Visit us at these online locations for more information on how residents are working to turn around West Willow: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Email: Phone: Angela Barbash, President -- (734) 260-3095


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 3:16 p.m.

Thanks so much for this article. It gives a far better view of what these deputies and the Sheriff's dept. is doing to improve our community. I live in West Willow and have called on the Sheriff's dept. for issues I've had with neighborhood kids and have seen improvement in the situation. It's always good to hear that others in the community are having similar success with this summer program and most importantly for working with the deputies to fight crime. Thanks to deputies Roy and Krings, Sheriff Clayton and the Sheriff department's all around efforts. Keep up the good work everyone!


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 3:01 p.m.

Heavy props to Roy, Krings and the other deputies for making a real effort to actually INTERACT with the community on a personal level - this is a truly vital element of crime prevention which counters the isolation which turns each patrol car into something more viewed akin to an invasion force and causes needless friction and hostility between officers and the community. This more than anything else will be what turns the tide. Also, kudos to the entire department for substantial improvements in officer conduct and professionalism over the past two years, in my capacity as contract security we've interacted a number of times and so far it's all been positive. The only quibble I have is the apparently new uniforms, as some people find the black needlessly intimidating, not to mention it can't be too fun for the officers wearing black in this weather along with all their required equipment - I would have suggested a neutral service grey instead. Still, you can't have everything, but getting involved with the community is a huge leap forward, way to go WCSD.

Not from around here

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 6 p.m.

I heard Pink was taken....Plus I think the uniform doesn't intimedate-thats what the gun and club are for!


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 12:53 p.m.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the officers that are patrolling in the west willow area . I can tell a difference since they have been in the area and I hope that it will continue. Thank you again and keep up the great work that you are doing for our community it is much needed and appreciated.

Mike Folk

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 12:14 p.m.

Where are their helmets?


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 3:20 p.m.

They do wear helmets but they just don't have them on in the photo.

Amy Lesemann

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 2:39 p.m.

Good point. They need to be role models, here; besides, if they are going to really chase people, all they need to do is flip off over the handlebars and they're toast.

Steve Pepple

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 11:07 a.m.

An error in the story has been corrected. Thank you to the reader who pointed it out.