Chiefs look forward to new facility

Published 3:35 pm Thursday, September 11, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Niles' police chiefs are looking forward to moving their departments soon into Niles' new law enforcement complex at 1600 Silverbrook.
The new, $6.5 million, 32,000 square-feet complex, which was funded by the State of Michigan, is scheduled to be in full operation by Oct. 27.
The pilot project, which is unique because the police departments will share common spaces within the building, is expected to increase communication between the police departments and improve the efficiency of their law enforcement work.
The new complex will also give the police departments access to improved technology, larger and more up-to-date facilities, as well as a new advanced dispatch center.
The Berrien County Sheriff's Department will have a substation at the new complex, but their main office will remain at the South County Court House in Niles.
Mays said the new complex will give police officers from the different departments the chance to frequently sit down and exchange ideas, which is likely to be an advantage in their effort to solve crimes.
Mays, however, also said it will be nice for area residents to have only one police facility to relate to.
Currently, the three police departments often have to turn away residents who seek their police services because they have come to the wrong station for what they seek help for.
Chief Ric Huff, Niles City Police Department, is excited about taking part in what he likes to call "a big science project."
Huff said the concept is unique not only because police departments sharing space within one building hasn't been done before, but also because a lot of people will be watching the project.
He expects other communities who may be thinking about doing the same thing will keep a close eye on costs of running the facility and whether productivity increases.
Huff said his 53-person staff is beginning to prepare for the move, which he expects will start in early October.
He is thankful for the work former State Sen. Harry Gast did to find money for the project, but also the many doors Gast opened for the project.
Chief John Street, Niles Township Police Department, will bring 13 staff to the new complex.
Covering 42 square miles, Street said it will be nice for the township police to be in the same space as the other police departments.
He thinks it will prevent the police departments from investigating and working on the same cases, which is a problem now.
Als,o he thinks the new complex will ensure improved communication between the police departments.
Street thinks being in the new complex will be somewhat confusing for everyone at first, but expects the departments to settle into their new routines quickly.
The three police departments will cover the maintenance and operation costs of the new facility.
The city police covers 60 percent, the state police 30 percent and the township police 10 percent, said Chief Huff.