July 8, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Eastern Michigan, neighbors boosting police patrols near campus

A law enforcement alliance announced Tuesday will boost police patrols near Eastern Michigan University and other areas of eastern Washtenaw County in response to a series of violent crimes.

EMU, Washtenaw County, the city of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township launched the Eastern Washtenaw Safety Alliance, a collaboration that features new safety measures, including new streetlights and shared jurisdictional authority.

The Eastern Washtenaw Safety Alliance, spearheaded by state Rep. David Rutledge, D-Superior Township, taps the resources of area police agencies, governments and organizations to expand crime-fighting efforts, program officials said.

The alliance includes the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office, which also patrols Ypsilanti Township; the Ypsilanti Police Department; and the EMU Department of Public Safety. The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority also will be active in the alliance.

The city and university have added police officers, who will focus on areas around EMU’s campus and downtown Ypsilanti, the location of the EMU College of Business.

Ypsilanti has hired eight police officers since last fall, bringing the city’s total to 29.

EMU is hiring 10 additional police officers this year. Four are already on patrol, with four other officers to be hired this summer and two more in the fall. The increased staffing will give Eastern 43 fully professional, deputized officers.

A rash of violent crimes against EMU students, including two homicides, has heightened awareness and led to a renewed emphasis on safety in and around campus.

Demarius Reed, 20, a student and football player at EMU, was shot to death Oct. 18 at a Ypsilanti apartment building. In December 2012, EMU student Julia Niswender was found dead in the bathtub in her off-campus apartment; authorities ruled the case a homicide.

Community leaders and police departments met over the last seven months to form new partnerships, expand existing collaborations and initiate new strategies, Rutledge said.

“Public safety is the foundation on which any vibrant community is built,” Rutledge said. “I am proud and excited over the partnerships, expanded collaborations and strategies arising from this alliance. This project has great meaning for the safety and security of residents of our community.”

Ypsilanti Police Chief Tony DeGiusti said safety and security are an important part of what a community needs to thrive.

“It has become more and more clear that no one agency working alone can solve its crime and disorder problems. This is mainly because criminals are mobile, and they don’t pay attention to lines on a map or what jurisdiction they are in,” he said. “We need to understand that and adapt our methods of policing to address these problems.”

Last month, Eastern announced more than $1.7 million in safety and security upgrades for the coming fiscal year, They include hiring the additional police officers, adding new surveillance cameras to the 500 already on campus, expanding lighting on the perimeter of campus and renovating police headquarters to accommodate the new officers joining the force.

EMU President Susan Martin said the alliance is a major step in fighting crime in the Ypsilanti area.

“With more than 500 cameras, a professional and experienced police force, and extensive safety protocols and practices, Eastern’s campus is very safe. Our focus is on maintaining the extensive safety operations in place on Eastern’s campus while greatly increasing the University’s off-campus presence,” she said.

The officers from each agency in the alliance share jurisdictional authority, meaning they all have countywide powers of arrest.

Last October, EMU, the Ypsilanti Police and the Washtenaw County sheriff began coordinated patrolling in the Leforge Road area north of campus. Expanded patrols now include neighborhoods surrounding campus on its south, east and west borders, where a concentration of EMU students and staff and Ypsilanti residents live.

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