Sheriff’s office reports high call volume in Niles Township

Published 6:31 pm Wednesday, December 22, 2021

NILES CHARTER TOWNSHIP — Police officers in Niles Charter Township have been busy in recent months, according to the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office.

Lt. Sean Soulard of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office was on hand for the Niles Charter Township Board of Trustees meeting Monday to give his report on police activity for the month of October.

Soulard said police took 402 complaints in the township, and 24 tickets were issued along with 27 arrests. According to Soulard, 30 percent of the county’s complaints for the month were from Niles Charter Township.

The township does not have its own police force and currently contracts with the sheriff’s office for seven deputies and one secretary. In 2021, the township budgeted roughly $1,042,000 for the contract.

“As you guys always hear every month, we’ve got seven [officers] down here plus a student resource officer at Brandywine who takes a few calls here and there, but that’s 57 calls per deputy. That’s far and above the average for anywhere else in the county. We’ve had over 30 percent of the calls here in the township for seven people to cover.”

Soulard said the township needs more officers to keep up with the demand.

“We’ve got a lot of people working doubles due to COVID illnesses and sicknesses within their families. I’ve worked a double the other day and had 12 calls just on my own, so it’s super busy.”

Soulard added that the township officers do not receive much backup from other entities because of a shortage of officers in the surrounding areas.

“We’re pretty much receiving assistance from our own people,” he said. “The [Michigan State Police], occasionally, but the state helps in Cass County, who’s down several people, so they’re spending a lot of time in Cass. When they can make it over, they do.”

Trustee Herschel Hoese expressed concern at the fact that only one officer was available to cover the night shift in the township, but Soulard said it just was not possible given the township’s current personnel count.

Bringing additional law enforcement officers within the township has been an ongoing conversation between the township and the sheriff’s department.

In a June 2021 meeting, the board of trustees agreed to consider a millage to support Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey proposed adding five additional deputies to the Niles Township area to increase its total number of deputies to 12.

Soulard said that officers have seized at least four guns last month, catalytic converter thefts are still happening and that storage units are getting broken into consistently. Retail fraud is down, but meth cases and stolen car cases are also up again.

“A lot of them are people leaving their cars unlocked with the keys in them, so it’s an easy target,” he said.

Soulard said officers temporarily took down the speed signs on Bell Road and Phillips Road due to dead batteries.

“I think the cold affected them. The batteries went dead very quickly, and they’re brand new,” he said. “I’m going to charge those up and see how long they’ll last.”

He said the speed signs have been met with a positive response since their installation.

“The residents liked them and wanted to know what kind of information it was collecting,” he said. I told them it is collecting data, but I’ve got to get batteries back in them to try and download the data and see what we have for a spreadsheet. I’m hoping to have that for the next meeting, just to compare what our speeds were on Bell, which is a school zone, and then on Phillip where we get complaints about speed a lot.”