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Clarkston constable talk continues

September 15, 2010 - Loud music in the neighborhood. Kids trespassing on the beach, loitering in Depot Park, and pulling bike stunts in Mill Pond parking lot.

Clarkston residents said they were confident when Clarkston Police would handle situations like this. With the department now gone, they're not so sure.

"I don't think a Oakland County Sheriff officer has time to break up kids hanging out skateboarding or smoking a joint at 10 o'clock at night," said resident Tarik Dinha. "I think a part-time person may be able to curb that and maybe minimize that type of activity."

Cara Catallo said she was "scared to call" the sheriff department when the neighbors' music was too loud.

Becky Summerlee, who has a private beach in her neighborhood, said she did not call the police when she and her husband saw kids trespassing on the beach.

The residents urged Clarkston City Council to consider a constable or single police officer position.

Mayor Steve Arkwright met with the finance committee to talk about it. Items included park patrols, parking tickets, house checks, special events, liaison to the Oakland County Sheriff Department, traffic control, and ordinance enforcement, as well as if the position should be an armed, sworn officer.

Alternatives include private security, extra contract with Oakland County Sheriff Department, and neighborhood patrol, he said.

"We offer those up to the council as points or areas of discussion as to what roles we think we need and what roles we want to pay for and what is it going to cost to get those roles," Arkwright said at the Sept. 13 council meeting.

Councilman Steve Hargis said many of those items had already been addressed in the letter signed by Lt. Dale LaBair and Supervisor Dave Wagner.

"There were comments in there they were going to give the same level of service that we were getting before. I know there is a lot of people in the room that seem to think that's all hogwash, but it was stated in the letter they would do such things as house checks, park patrols, all of these various things you essentially mentioned on there," Hargis said. "I would like to know what we're going to get more than what we're already promised?"

Hargis recommended making a chart of the things promised to be done by the sheriff department and things not done by the department which could be done by a constable type figure.

Resident Joe Luginski agreed a chart would be good and was in favor of a constable type person. He said he had been contacted by many residents who haven't seen a sheriff patrol car go down their street yet.

"As a compromise to where we were and to where we are," he said. "I think this person should be seriously considered for those things and functions that won't be done by the Oakland County Sheriff or won't be done nearly as often or as efficiently as we used to with our own police."

Dinha also felt it was "crucial to keep the door to the police department open."

"If we have the door open it gives us the opportunity to expand," he said. "Maybe pick up a full-time officer, than maybe it's two shifts, then maybe five years from now whenever that timeline is maybe we an ramp up to a full-time police force."

Cara Catallo thought it would be good to have a person who has Clarkston's "interest at heart."

She recalled prior to having their own police department, they had someone patrolling the streets on their feet.

"I think it is part of the fabric of our community to have somebody there to represent us," she said. "Who knows the shop owners by name and maybe know us by name that would be a novelty."

Catallo also suggested if a committee is formed to look at the issue more, that the committee consists of both council members and residents.

"I sort of felt a lack of representation (from the council after the last meeting) and I still have a bad taste in my mouth," she said.

Councilman Chuck Inabnit said residents shouldn't be afraid to call the sheriff.

"I know you don't get a warm fuzzy feeling calling them, but that's what your tax dollars are going for," he said. "If there is a problem, call them."

Councilman Jim Brueck said he was not against forming a committee to discuss the issue further, but if things are being seen and not reported how are they going to know what they're paying for?

"I think it's the wrong approach to run and try and to stall a solution to a problem that may not exist," he said. "If you don't give it a chance and test them we don't know."

Hargis agreed.

"I think we have the people that are out there that can do most if not all of it is we're looking for," Hargis said. "(Let's) hold them accountable for the job before we do anything else."

Arkwright said he would bring a committee recommendation comprised of both council members and residents at the next meeting and also suggested holding off selling the Dodge Charger Police car until they decide what they're going to do concerning a Constable.

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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