Drug-related issues continue to be a top priority as police department navigates through pandemic
Tue, 02/16/2021 - 2:20pm caleb
City of Grayling police chief reports organizers are ‘cautiously optimistic’ that AuSable Marathon and festival will happen in 2021 as planning proceeds
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The City of Grayling Police Department continues to navigate its way through a difficult year as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers and drug issues plague the area.
City of Grayling Police Chief Doug Baum said when the pandemic started to affect Michigan in the winter of 2020 the department tried its best to keep officers safe while still responding to complaints. He said the department tried to handle as much as possible over the phone, but that proved to be “difficult.”
“We were just trying to make sure our officers were doing business and staying as safe as possible. At the beginning there were so many unknowns the challenge was dealing with the day to day changes,” Baum said. “It’s just a difficult situation all around.”
Chief Baum said the department has received calls from people about others not wearing masks inside businesses, and officers have told them that “the business is private property” and it falls on the individual business to enforce whether people wear face coverings inside during the executive orders and epidemic orders from the state. Also, he said complaints with regard to employers not following the rules to protect employees fall within state jurisdiction, specifically, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Amanda Clough, Deputy Police Chief, said the department has had to respond to a few incidents in the city, “verbal dispute types,” involving people arguing about mask usage.
“That was pretty common at times,” Deputy Chief Clough said.
Clough said drug-related incidents are the department’s biggest challenge right now in the community, including larcenies caused by people trying to steal items to fuel their drug habits.
“The drug problem is the root cause of a lot of our complaints,” Deputy Chief Clough said.
Deputy Chief Clough said the department has dealt with fewer drug overdoses recently, probably because of a couple reasons. One, the “shift to use of (methamphetamine)” by many users, and two, the wider availability of NARCAN, a nasal spray form of naloxone that is “FDA approved for the treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose,” according to www.narcan.com. Deputy Chief Clough said the department does not see a lot of overdoses associated with meth, and if people are using to NARCAN to treat opioid overdoses, they may not be contacting emergency services, so authorities will not know about them.
Deputy Chief Clough said methamphetamine use has spiked in the area and it’s one of the community’s biggest law enforcement issues. She said the department is working with Families Against Narcotics to offer programs for people who need help with substance abuse issues, including one that would allow users to come to the Grayling Police Department or the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department for assistance. The Grayling Police Department is also looking to respond to overdoses by going to the residence and offering resources for help to the individual and the family, she said.
Deputy Chief Clough said city officers are seeing higher blood alcohol contents in many of their drunk driving stops, and they’re also seeing an increase in people driving while under the influence of other substances.
“We’re seeing more drugs driving cases,” Deputy Chief Clough said.
As a positive for the department last year, the city was able to install new computers in its patrol vehicles as part of scheduled capital improvements, Deputy Chief Clough said. Clough said the new technology has been a helpful tool for officers, allowing them to access and process information quickly.
Chief Baum said the department’s car cameras and body cameras are in good shape.
“We’re all good with that. Those have been in place. They’re working good,” Chief Baum said.
Deputy Chief Clough said overall cooperation has increased throughout the current pandemic.
“There’s been a lot more community interaction, agencies working together,” Deputy Chief Clough said.
Chief Baum reported last week that area emergency services met with representatives for the AuSable River Festival and AuSable River Canoe Marathon and they’re moving into planning phases as everyone hopes to conduct the events this year. (In 2020, the AuSable River Festival and AuSable River Canoe Marathon were cancelled due to COVID-19.)
“We’re cautiously optimistic we’re going to be able to have the AuSable Marathon this year,” Chief Baum said. “The plan is right now these groups are going to plan for the event and if the state decides we can’t have it we may have to cancel it later.”