BERRIEN SPRINGS — Berrien Springs-Oronoko Township police faced everything from floods to crime to routine calls in 2018, Police Chief Paul Toliver told Berrien Springs Village Council members Monday.
Toliver said the department’s goals remain the same: to provide professional law enforcement services to the village and township and to be transparent and fiscally accountable. The one thing that has changed is the status of officer Rick Smiedendorf, who now works half time for the department and half time for the schools.
“That partnership is really bearing fruit and we’re happy with what we’re seeing,” Toliver said. “We’ve gotten good information from the kids. We had an incident in the spring with a student considering violence and other kids gave info to the OKAY2SAY tipline right away. That happened because of the trust we built – it’s making a difference.”
He said the February and March 2018 flooding was the major incident of the year and it also helped the department establish stronger relationships to residents in the community. “Our officers put in 90 hours of overtime at the shelter and worked with people displaced by the flooding,” he said. “There were a lot of relationships built and good contacts made.”
Also last year, the department had 124 training sessions-many done online and responded to four break-ins, including two at financial institutions – Fifth Third Bank and Chemical Bank.
Toliver said his department made 157 arrests in the village in 2018 and 274 arrests in the township. The top five types of crimes in the village were resisting police, controlled substance violations, assaults, larceny and drunk driving. The department’s busiest days are Friday through Sunday and he’s shifted the schedule to account for that, he said.
Council members said they appreciated the department’s work. President Milt Richter said he is glad to see that a new protocol has been set for responding to Berrien Township calls. Toliver said not much has really changed in terms of call numbers there, but now officers don’t have to get his permission first before responding.
Council Trustee Jesse Hibler asked whether there is any news of a possible traffic light at the M-139-U.S. 31 interchange. Richter and Toliver said Michigan Department of Transportation employees came and repainted lane lines and a traffic light is under consideration.
In action at Monday’s meeting, council members finally approved a new street light contract with Indiana Michigan Power for new LED lights. The council had tabled action on the proposed contract over the last few meetings because they wanted more information.
Hibler said the state has directed the company to replace all non LED street lights by the end of 2020 without charge to customers. “They’re doing it free but they’re charging us the same as they have been for non LED lights,” he said. “They’ll probably do that until they make their money back. We weren’t clear at first as to what was going on.”
Council members approved the first of the WNIT underwriting spots they are getting in connection with the WNIT “Our Town” documentary the village sponsored in August. Richter said the first community attraction to be featured will be salmon fishing at Shamrock Park, and it will run for seven spots.
The council also raised trash fees by $1 per quarter for village residents and $1.25 a quarter for township residents, to be followed by a 3 percent annual increase starting July 1, 2020. Richter said the trash rate hike gives the village the opportunity to catch up on costs.