State police: 'We're not out to write tickets' on Belle Isle

The Michigan State Police told Detroit City Council today it has arrested 75 people on Belle Isle since the state took over the park in February.

Updating the council of the MSP's effort to patrol the island, State Police Captain Monica Yesh said 14 felons and 61 fugitives have been taken into custody, as of May 25.

"While we're educating [residents], we do find them with warrants," Yesh said. "If you do have warrants, you're probably going to get arrested."

Under an order signed by Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr earlier this year, the 982-acre Belle Isle became Michigan's 102nd state park. The city will lease the park to the state for 30 years, with two optional 15-year extensions.

State troopers have reported 671 traffic stops from Feb. 1 to May 25, of which 614 were issued verbal warnings, Yesh said. The majority of citations were issued for speeding or other moving violations. The speed-limit on the island is 25 miles-per-hour, Yesh said, and signs around the island currently identifying the limit at 20 miles-per-hour will soon be replaced by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

"So we're not out there to write tickets," Yesh said. "We're out there to change driver behavior."

The stats presented by Yesh only reflected the Michigan State Police's data and do not include numbers from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Yesh also said today a bike program would soon be implemented, where two troopers will patrol the island from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and take "an active role on Belle Isle." The bicycles are expected to arrive Friday, she said,

The program is "to make sure the public can see us, that we're visible," Yesh said. State police currently have 46 troopers working in the city of Detroit, with 13 on the island.

City Councilman James Tate urged the city and state troopers to continue educating the public on the island's speed limits. But, even though Belle Isle's transition has been difficult for some, he said lawbreakers should expect

"I can't vouch for it," he said.

City Council President Brenda Jones made note of the island's drop in attendance since the state takeover, adding it was most obvious on Memorial Day. "There is still some uneasiness on people going out there," she said.

State Lieutenant Robert Hendrix, commander of the Belle Isle detail, said he believes attendance is down because of the $11 yearly recreation passport motorists need to visit state parks. In the case of Belle Isle, the state is currently phasing in the passport throughout 2014, requiring the fee only when the license plate registration expires. By February 2015, all motorists will need a passport. The park is still free for pedestrians and cyclists.

"I've really only had a lot of positive feedback from residents I've come in contact with," Hendrix said after their presentation.

City Clerk Janice Winfrey was also present at the meeting. Earlier this year, Winfrey said she was pulled over for speeding, and was told by the responding trooper that he was trying to keep the "riff raff" off Belle Isle.  The incident sparked an uproar over the state's patrol of the island and sparked an investigation into the state's policing.

Yesh said the incident was addressed and the trooper's was reassigned without any disciplinary action, as his temporary six-week assignment on the island lapsed, she said. Each trooper is put through cultural diversity training before they begin their detail, she said.

Nonetheless, Winfrey said she hasn't visited Belle Isle since she was pulled over, and has told her children to stay off the ilsand for now.

"I"m not feeling comfortable about it," she said. Winfrey requested the state police to pursue more outreach programs to educate residents of island's patrol.

Yesh said, "That's what we're trying to do ... we're trying to make them feel like they're in the community. It's not heavy-handedness."

About The Author

Ryan Felton

Ryan Felton was born in 1990 and spent the majority of his childhood growing up in Livonia. In 2009, after a short stint at Eastern Michigan University, he moved to Detroit where he has remained ever since. After graduating from Wayne State University’s journalism program, he went on to work as a staff writer...
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