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City Police millage important, chief says



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Clarkston Police Chief Dale LaCroix with the department's Dodge Charger, a six-cylinder factory demo. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
June 30, 2010 - Clarkston is a quiet town, and that's how the local police officers like it.

But just in case, the department has about a hundred years worth of experience to handle it, said Chief Dale LaCroix.

"We have investigators from Pontiac, New York City, with a ton of experience," LaCroix said. "It's nice to have if something happens. It benefits the city."

That would be lost if the city dissolved its police department, he said.

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"We're more than a bunch of pretty faces and a six-cylinder Dodge," said Officer Gary Claudio. "We hustle. We take our jobs very seriously. We're very professional. And we're concerned over the vote on Aug. 3."

For example, investigators solved a church break-in case in 2007 by following tips, tracking down stolen property to pawn shops.

"We caught the person," LaCroix said. "It took some committed work by Det. Jim Johnson, who has 22 years of investigative experience with Pontiac."

"It was some good, old-fashioned police work," Claudio said.

Also in 2007, an officer staked out a break-in location on Robinson Court. When the suspect returned to the area, he was caught.

"He was sent to prison," LaCroix said.

In 2009, they solved a vandalism case on the 5 S. Main Street mural in a week.

"We found a spray paint can, traced it to where it was bought, got a search warrant for debit card information from the bank and a picture from the store, and tracked down the suspects," LaCroix said. "They were juveniles, sentenced to community service and fines."

In a pending case, officers tracked down a purse thief when he tried to cash a check. They used his phone to close in on him, and found him hiding in Springfield Township, the chief said.

Voters will decide a millage proposal to increase property taxes by five mills, Aug. 3.

The current millage, set at 13.1979, generates revenues of about $584,000. The extra five mills would add $220,000. The additional revenue would go to city's general budget – the proposal is not for a dedicated police millage.

LaCroix said he trusts the city to use the money correctly if approved.

"It would be political suicide to not use it for police," he said.

The city police deficit is expected to be $77,205 in 2011, growing to $145,796 in 2012, and $160,596 in 2013.

The department's budget is about $287,000 this year, out of $816,381 in total revenue. Contracting with Oakland County Sheriff Office through Independence Township would cost $93,000-$98,000. The consolidation plan would save almost $190,000.

But residents would lose its hometown police service, LaCroix said.

"Our response time is about a minute – we know the streets and the people," he said. "We run the department very economically."

"He runs a tight ship," Claudio said. "We invite anyone to come in, look at our equipment and ask questions."

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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