Detroit — With state officers strictly patrolling Belle Isle, Detroit police are concerned troublemakers who once flocked to the island during warm weather will seek other parks in which to drive drunk, use drugs and blast music.
This summer, Detroit police will beef up patrols in the city’s parks, with an emphasis on those on the east side near Belle Isle, Assistant Chief Steve Dolunt said.
“Everyone knows the state police and DNR are cracking down on Belle Isle, and we’re afraid some people will just find other places to cause trouble,” Dolunt said. “That’s why (Police Chief James Craig) started a new park detail: To get out in front of this before it becomes a problem.”
Dolunt said Chandler Park and Balduck Memorial Park are two areas that will receive extra patrols.
“We’re going to be strict about closing the parks at 10 (p.m.), like on Belle Isle,” Dolunt said.
The Michigan State Police and Department of Natural Resources began patrolling Belle Isle after it became a state park in February. Some residents have complained officers have been heavy-handed with visitors to the island, while others insist state officials are merely enforcing laws that have long been ignored.
Council President Brenda Jones last month called the state’s policing of Belle Isle a “disgrace.” Jones and City Clerk Janice Winfrey insisted Detroiters are being unfairly targeted, and called for sensitivity training.
At Thursday’s Belle Isle Advisory Committee meeting, state officials said police on the island have stopped 422 people since February, resulting in 372 warnings and 49 citations issued.
During that time, police caught 186 people with outstanding warrants and arrested 47 fugitives. There were 10 felony arrests, and 77 misdemeanor arrests, state police said.
Activist Ron Scott organized two bicycle rides on the island to protest what he said was heavy-handed police enforcement on Belle Isle.
“This is our city, and Belle Isle is the people’s island,” Scott said in a recent press release. “We will promote not only public safety, but equal treatment for everyone. No one should feel like a second-class citizen on the island.”