2017-04-20 / Front Page

Drunk drivers, animals misbehaving

Annual crime report
By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff

Animal complaints still top the crime list in Leelanau County, but drunken and impaired drivers are catching up.

The recently released 2016 Annual Report of crime statistics from the Sheriff’s Office shows that there were 145 reports of unruly animals last year, and 131 reports for those who were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

To compare, in 2015 there were 129 animal calls and 87 under-the-influence drivers.

Why the change?

Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich points to the number of third-, fourth- and fifth-time drunk driving offenders that are being caught.

“People aren’t responsible when it comes to that,” Borkovich said. “Alcohol is not just a beer, it’s a drug. And if it’s abused you can kill yourself.”

And you can kill others, he said.

Borkovich said he understands that people make mistakes and do “stupid things.”

“But don’t get caught over and over and over,” he said.

Borkovich thinks more stringent fees and longer periods of suspension of a person’s driver’s license could make a difference, citing some European countries that take away a person’s right to drive for the rest of their life if they are caught driving drunk.

“Do we need to do that here? Maybe we do,” he said.

At a minimum, drunk drivers should spend more time in jail, but more needs to be done for offenders when they are back at home.

“When caught I think it’s extremely important that part of their sentence after jail is daily PBTs, some form of rehab and education,” he said.

For all categories, Leelanau County dealt with a total of 1,083 crimes over the past year, up slightly up from the 1,011 that were reported in 2015.

The number reflects all calls that generated a police report.

Also on the rise are people who’ve been arrested for controlled substancerelated charges, including marijuana. Charges encompass the possession, use or manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance.

Those arrests were at 43 last year, up from 17 in 2015.

“What I’m seeing is an alarming trend of increased substance abuse,” continued Borkovich, which he said equates to an increase in other types of crimes.

The increase is at least partially attributed to society’s lessening stance on marijuana, he said.

“Legalizing marijuana is totally absurd unless it’s through a registered pharmacy and prescribed by a doctor,” Borkovich said.

Car/deer collisions remain the No. 1 cause of accidents in the county at 255, with the highest number of crashes — 83 — taking place in July. Coming in a close second is November, when 81 crashes were reported.

Borkovich said there have been no fatal car/deer accidents in the county for many years, something that surprises him.

“Lots of people are killed in car/ deer accidents across the state,” he said.

That doesn’t mean the county has been free of fatalities.

In all, there were 677 accidents in 2016, compared to 625 in 2015. Three of those accidents resulted in the deaths of six people.

Two people on a motorcycle were killed on Aug. 4 when they failed to negotiate a curve on M-22 near Carlson Road in Leelanau Township. Killed were Ruben Randall, 59, and Stacey Allen, 57, both of Indianapolis.

Three downstate men were killed Aug. 20 when the truck they were in slammed into a tree on M-22 south of Leland. Those men were driver Brian Surhigh Jr., 26, of Algonac, and Larvelle Small, 35, and Lamareo Baldwin, 41, both of Detroit.

Another man, 85-year-old Philip Houseman of Florida, died Sept. 20 after pulling out in front of an oncoming vehicle at the intersection of Fouch and Bugai roads in Elmwood Township.

Alcohol-related accidents in the county numbered 29, with five of those taking place in July during the peak of the tourist season.

The report also tallies where each crime took place, with Centerville Township remaining the safest place to live in the county. There were only 29 crimes reported for the township last year — just 3 percent of the total number.

Just one person was caught driving drunk, while six police reports were made regarding animal complaints.

There were also four cases of fraud and four assaults, two of which were domestic assaults.

“We’re very rural, we don’t have a village, we don’t have much commercial,” said Supervisor Jim Schwantes. “It’s a quiet township. And we’re just a bunch of nice people.”

The township also has a very small population, which is likely another big factor in the low crime rate, Schwantes said.

The township has just one establishment that serves liquor, Sugarfoot Saloon on S. Good Harbor Trail, and no party stores, gas stations or even a post office.

The more populous townships had higher crime rates, with 207 crimes reported in Suttons Bay Township — 19 percent of the total — and 192 in Elmwood Township, or 18 percent of the total.

Index crimes reported in Leelanau County have been consistent over the last three years, with 162 reported in 2014, 159 in 2015 and 160 in 2016.

That’s down from a 10-year peak of 278 in 2010.

Index crimes, the most serious offenses in the criminal justice system, are reported to the FBI under the Uniform Crime Reporting program, which uses the statistics to produce its annual crime report.

The eight offenses on that list are homicide, rape, robbery, assault, breaking and entering, larceny, unlawful driving away of an automobile and arson.

Borkovich attributes the downward trend of index crimes to the hard work of his deputies.

“These deputies, I can’t give them enough credit for their hard work and their care and concern for this community,” he said.

Borkovich said that compared to other places the crime rate in Leelanau is still low and the county is still a paradise.

“This is the place to live,” he said.

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