Township voters polled on 24-hour police preference

Published 6:54 am Thursday, November 4, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - About 20 citizens of Niles Township braved the cold and rain Tuesday to survey voters in township polling places on whether or not they would like a 24-hour police department in the township.
Members of the Niles Township Concerned Citizens Committee stopped voters on their way home from the polls and asked them to answer one question; "As a Niles Township resident, are you in favor of having a 24/7 Niles Township Police Department."
Residents could then check yes or no on the small questionaires and sign their name if they wished. After filling out the questionaire, citizens were given some literature about why the township should have a full-time police department.
The committee will then take the results of the election day survey to the township board to bring the concern of township citizens to the board.
About 20 members strong, the committee, which includes some township officers, attends the Township Board of Trustees meetings on the first and third Monday of each month to get the word out that the township needs more police protection.
Currently, Niles Township Police are on patrol until 11 p.m. After 11 p.m., the Berrien County Sheriff's Department and Michigan State Police both offer coverage of the township.
The township has been without regular overnight police coverage for about a month, when Niles City Police announced no city police would go to the township when the township did not have a vehicle out on patrol.
Scalf said there is concern of what could happen if the township police department were dissolved.
Both the Michigan State Police and Berrien County Sheriff's Department have only one car on patrol during the midnight shift.
The sheriff's department patrol is assigned to all of South County, which runs from New Buffalo to Niles Township.
Scalf said problems could arise if a call was placed to the Niles Township Police and the sheriff's patrol was on the other side of South County.
Jerry Reed, 64, said he would like to see a 24-hour township police department because it's important for the citizens' safety.
Frank Spain, 63, also said yes when asked about the department.
Niles Township is the largest township in Berrien County and one of the largest in the state of Michigan. Many townships in Michigan have full-time police departments which are funded by local millages.
Scalf said the survey is not a vote for a millage, just a means to gather information on public opinion within the township to present to the township board of trustees.