January 09, 2013 - Joe Ashley's excited about his new position for two reasons – 1) he gets to help the community's young people and 2) he finally gets to see the sun again after working nights for so long.
Ashley is the new detective in charge of all juvenile-related crimes and incidents at the Oakland County Sheriff's substation in Oxford Township.
"Primarily, my focus will be dealing with anyone age 16 and under," said the 12-year veteran of the county agency.
The new position, which will cost $130,608 this year, is being funded by the two-year, 1-mill property tax increase that township voters approved in November.
Whether a juvenile is the perpetrator or the victim of a crime, the case will land on Ashley's desk for investigation.
"In Oxford, (this position is) definitely needed," he said. His opinion is based on having worked the midnight shift (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) in Oxford as a road patrol deputy for the last three years.
"A lot of the people out late at night are juveniles," he said. "It seems like half (of) the crimes committed are (perpetrated) by juveniles. Breaking into cars. Breaking into homes. (Underage drinking) parties. Stealing from businesses. Assaults."
"I think that drug use has gone up quite a bit," Ashley noted. "(In) a lot of my interactions (with youth while on patrol), there always tends to be some sort of narcotic or alcohol involved. Ecstacy's a big one. Prescription pills – usually they're stealing from their parents. Alcohol's always involved. Heroin's starting to make a comeback."
Having a detective who devotes all his time and energy toward not only combating and solving these crimes, but also building trust and rapport with young people is very important in Ashley's mind.
"Obviously, a juvenile you have to treat differently than you do an adult," said the 1994 Lake Orion High School graduate.
The detective is looking forward to helping steer young people in the right direction by getting them the help they need and encouraging them to make good life decisions such as staying in school, staying away from drugs and alcohol, and avoiding run-ins with the law.
"That's why we all do this job – it's about helping people," he said.
Ashley indicated the most important thing parents can do to ensure their kids stay on the straight and narrow path is keep the lines of communication open.
"The more you talk to them, the more of an understanding you're going to have with them," he said.
Ashley is certainly no stranger to working one-on-one with young people. He coached track at both the middle and high school levels in Lake Orion.
He's looking forward to creating the type of atmosphere with Oxford Community Schools "where we can all work together."
"Hopefully, we'll have a really good relationship," he said.
In light of the Dec. 14 shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut that left 20 students and six adults dead, Ashley brings some valuable experience to the community as a four-year member of the sheriff's Special Response Team (SRT).
The SRT is a group of highly-skilled and highly-trained officers selected from personnel throughout the sheriff's department. The team responds in critical situations involving barricaded gunmen, high-risk warrant arrests, drug raids and civil disturbances.
"In the event something did happen (in Oxford), obviously security and reaction are first on my mind," Ashley said. "That's the nice thing about working days . . . If that does happen, I feel I'm more capable to help in those situations."
Ashley indicated he already spoke with the district's private security personnel about providing the township's officers with keys to all the school buildings.
"That way if there's no staff available, we can still have a quick response," he said.
On a personal note, Ashley admitted he wasn't one of those little boys who always dreamed of someday wearing a badge.
"I never wanted to be a cop," he said.
He didn't go looking for this job, it found him.
"I was offered a job in the (sheriff's) Marine Division and I thought, 'Hey, why not?' But I fell in love with the job from there," Ashley said. "It changes every day. Nothing stays the same. I enjoy the interaction with people."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.