Great Lakes Crossings & Sex Trafficking

Once again we have confronted the recurring Facebook rumor about Great Lakes Crossings Mall being a hot bed of sex trafficking.  I’ve been reading through the comments to learn what people are saying on this topic.  Frankly, I’m insulted that some commenters have suggested that this kind of thing is happening regularly and that we “want to keep it hush-hush.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  All the members of our department take sex trafficking seriously.  We investigate thoroughly any report anytime.  We know that we have no missing persons reports there – now or ever.

Because we are cops, we are a bunch of fact based people.  We believe strongly that facts and truth are important.  And the fact is that there are no indications of sex trafficking rings or kidnappings going on there.  We have a group of officers who work out of a substation right at the mall so they are in and around the mall all the time.  We respond to things there quickly and with the necessary emphasis.  None of this Facebook stuff is fact — and when we have to keep investigating rumors over and over it is a waste of valuable investigative time.

If there is a person out there who is uncomfortable at any time while at the mall, they should call 911 and report the situation as soon as possible.  You can also find help from any mall security person.  And for those people who say that they don’t feel comfortable dropping off their kids at the mall without adults, I say THANKS.  Unsupervised kids are a  continuing problem to us.

Here is where the real problem of sex crimes against kids exists:  on their phones and computers.  Are you checking their phones?  Apps like Snapchat and Kik are a growing problem.  We are seeing these cases nearly daily.

Lieutenant Ryan Gagnon was just in my office. He is recently transferred from Operations Division to Investigations.  He has never been a detective so has had limited interaction with sex crimes.  He was telling me how shocked he is to see the volume of these types of cases.  He is shocked that kids are communicating on line with persons representing themselves as other kids who ask them to photo or video themselves naked and then extorting them to perform more and more by threatening to post the photos and videos.  It is horrifying.  Want to prevent sex crimes on kids?  Know what they are doing online.

Here is a video from the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children  that gives insight to the problem:

Want to do more to help?  Don’t spend your time with unverified rumors – educate yourself, donate, support the work of NCMEC and circulate their message on your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Prom Season and Hotel Parties

Auburn Hills is fortunate to be home to a large number of hotels serving our business and entertainment entities.  We work with our hoteliers to help them provide a safe and hospitable atmosphere.  Every year at this time we contact the hotels and the area high schools in an attempt to prevent teenage hotel parties.

I am always shocked when I hear that parents and sometimes older siblings rent hotel rooms for high school parties after prom where there is significant drinking and drug use .  We take a very dim view of these parties and encourage the hotels to call us when they see the signs a party of this kind is brewing.

I’ve even heard parents say that they think it is “safe” if they rent the room for the party and provide the alcohol so that the kids don’t drive.  Drunk or drugged driving certainly is extremely dangerous but so is allowing your child to drink to excess (ever heard of alcohol poisoning?)  When these parties occur we answer calls of fighting, property damage and sexual assault.

We will have a zero tolerance for underaged drinking and will issue tickets and make arrests.  You can be issued an open house party ticket with a BIG fine if you are the party sponsor.

Don’t let a fun celebration turn into a negative life altering experience. Image result for safe prom

Once again, in San Bernadino yesterday, we see the outcomes of domestic violence

Domestic violence is a terrible problem on this country.  We respond to these calls nearly daily here in Auburn Hills and it is not uncommon to respond to several in one 24 hour day.  Nationally, we saw it again yesterday when a teacher’s estranged husband burst into his wife’s special education classroom and fired, killing her and an 8 year old boy.  A second boy was injured.

 

A gunman opened fire inside his wife’s elementary school classroom in San Bernardino on Monday, killing her and one a student before shooting himself.

Source: San Bernardino School Shooting: Three Dead, 1 Wounded in ‘Murder-Suicide’ in Classroom – NBC News

Domestic violence cuts across all races and socio economic groups.  Nice neighborhoods, not so nice neighborhoods.  We see it so much on the news I fear we have stopped seeing Image result for domestic homicideit.  Did you know that in Michigan:

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the United States have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.
  • On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines receive approximately 21,000 calls, approximately 15 calls every minute.v
  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.
  • The presence of a gun in the home during a domestic violence incident increases the risk of homicide by at least 500%.
  • 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these crimes are female.

Lt Cas Miarka, who trains our businesses in active shooter response, reminds workplaces how  frequently workplace violence stems from a domestic dispute.  That is just what the San Bernardino incident was –her husband brought a gun to her workplace to kill her.  No one wants to become involved in someone else’s business but if you know a co worker is struggling it is important to report the situation to Human Resources who can take steps to make sure that workers are safe.  Call us, we can help.

Because of our concerns over the widespread nature of this type of crime, we have embarked on a new path to increase our skills and knowledge of investigation of these cases.  Several of our officers and investigators have been trained and certified in “lethality.”  We take extra steps to determine how likely it is that one of the parties in a domestic dispute may engage in extreme violence.  There are behavioral markers that are derived from research indicating when there is a likelihood so that the victim can take steps to protect themselves.

We also have trained more personnel on the signs of strangulation. Victims will sometimes tell us that they have been “choked” by their partner but at the time there are no obvious marks or bruises so no evidence.  Since there was no specialized way to gather evidence officers had no empirical proof -only the victim’s word.  We know that “choking”  is an attempt to kill another person and that it takes a relatively small amount of pressure on the carotid arteries to cut off blood supply to the brain causing death in a short period of time.  We have been involved in this extra training starting in early 2017.  As a result,  we have requested and received strangulation (10 year felony) warrants for the arrest of 2 perpetrators.  When I watched the recorded interview of one of these individuals he demonstrated how he pulled the strings of her hoodie sweatshirt to cut off her ability to breath and the blood supply to her brain. It was shocking to watch.  The other subject escaped the scene before our arrival and has not yet been arrested.  But we will find for him.

We have rededicated ourselves to improved investigation using new evidence based techniques in these cases.  We understand how much havoc and damage the perpetrators wreak on those around them:  domestic partners, children, workplaces, even police officers.  And we are determined to bring them to justice.

If someone you know is a victim of domestic violence there is help:  HAVEN their 24 hr crisis line number is 877-922-1274.  If you are lucky enough not to need the services of HAVEN you can still help with your time, your talents and your money.  Check out their website to find out how.

And if you are a person who is violent toward your intimate partner or family, you are going to jail in Auburn Hills.

A Challenging Day in the Bloomfield Orchards

Today was tense and challenging.  But it ultimately had a peaceful outcome which was our goal.

At 10:51 am we received the first call of a man trying doors at houses where no one was home.  Several officers responded into the area and stopped more than one person in the area.  At one point they found a person who fit the description of the suspicious individual.  When officers tried to stop him he struggled and fled on foot through back yards and over fences with officers close behind.  Neighbors who saw what was happening assisted the officers by giving information about where he was last seen.  Sgt. Rick Leonard who was the on scene supervisor called for a dog.  Our department does not have tracking dogs since so many departments around us do have dogs that we can easily borrow.  The Sheriff’s Office sent a deputy with a dog who started an immediate track and ultimately found where the suspect had entered the garage of a home.  We learned quickly from the neighbors that the homeowner was away .

Meanwhile I was listening in my office and called for the Sheriff’s helicopter myself when I heard Sgt. Leonard calling for help.  Lieutenant Gagnon dropped what he was doing and headed to the scene along with all of our detectives.  Fortunately School Resource Officer Brian Miller heard the radio traffic and immediately called for locking down a nearby grade school. I was relieved to hear him on the radio.  Later he consulted with Lt. Miarka on a plan to handle school dismissal at the high school and the elementary if the incident should continue until dismissal time.  Fortunately we didn’t need that plan.

Lieutenant Miarka took over as our Public Information Officer sending out a “shelter in place” notice to our Bloomfield Orchards NIXLE messaging group.  (If you are not subscribed, go here:  NIXLE.  He was also on scene giving updates to the media who were at the nearby staging point. We know that you are informed by the media what we are doing so on a scene like this they are our partners in getting information out to you.

Lieutenant Gagnon was the on scene commander and once it was determined that the subject was in the garage and likely in the house, he requested the Oakland County Sheriff’s Special Response Team (SRT).  Our department does not have an SRT or SWAT team.  As a smaller department we expend our efforts on meeting our communities needs daily but we

do not invest in a team like this.  Teams of this sort are tremendously expensive in equipment and training.  It is rarely used in a town like ours (I count 5 times in the 23 years I have been here).  So we work well with the Sheriff’s highly trained team and call them when we need them. I was on scene as well.  There is a methodology to these teams with which I am familiar.  Their commander, Captain Chris Wundrach, kept us well informed of the steps they were taking.  They are the technical experts but they are ultimately leaving and we are staying, so we work in close coordination to make sure that we all get the outcome we want by methods that are acceptable to all parties.

Once in position, SRT members used their tools to talk to the subject in the house.  Dr. LaMar Gardner, a psychologist for the team was on scene as well.  He assists in negotiations in these situations.  Shortly before 3 pm the suspect came out and was taken into custody without incident. He was transported by our officers to our station for questioning and then lodged at the Oakland County Jail.

Officer Joel Foreman injured his foot in the original fight but we believe he will be OK.  No other injuries or damage.

Bloomfield Orchards neighbors were alert and called us quickly to report this suspicious person.  We appreciate how they assisted officers and followed directions of personnel on scene.  We know these are difficult situations when you are asked to leave your home or stay away from your home.  We don’t have much time to give explanations in the moment.  The homeowner came to the scene when he was called and stood by while the whole thing went down.  Fortunately his home wasn’t damaged in a significant way.

The suspect’s parents came to the scene since he is a local guy known to us but we were not able to let them near.  I think they feared the worst.  Things have been in a downward spiral for their son lately.  He will be arraigned tomorrow.  At that time we will release his identity and the charges.

I have often heard non police people say that it seems like there are layers of police – local, county, state. federal.  But I would counter that.  I say it is more like a jigsaw puzzle.  We fit together with our skills, equipment, training and mission to achieve good outcomes for those who need us.

 

Michigan Officer Impaled by Booby Trap Set at Medical Marijuana Grow Operation

A Wyoming, Michigan police officer investigating a marijuana grow operation suffered serious injuries when he was impaled on a booby trap set by growers.

Image result for booby trap with nails

Not a photo of the actual device

The building had an alarm and police were responding to an alarm on the building when he was injured.  I am incredulous that the responsible persons failed to take into consideration that officers might respond to their alarm and be injured by their trap.  Growers have been known to set these traps to protect their grows in California and other places out west.  It has been uncommon here to date. I am concerned that these grow locations, legal or illegal, could present a new danger to officers and others.

Here’s a news report.

Great Lakes Crossings Assistant Security Director and Officer Save a Life

In this job one never knows what we may have to confront at any given time.  Yesterday was a case in point.  At about 9:50 am we received a report of a woman standing in the travel lanes of I-75 southbound near Great Lakes Crossings Outlets.  I was listening to thesuicidal-4 dispatch myself in my office.  Officer Bryan Chubb, the responding officer was on the way – he clearly knew it was likely to be a person trying to harm themselves.  Knowing this was a critical response he asked for more information to try to pin down the exact location.  I could hear his siren in the background and I knew by the tone of his voice that he was intensely focused on getting there quickly.  Because officers work on and around the freeway daily they understand how dangerous it is to be a person on foot on or near the roadway.  He was advised that Great Lakes Crossings security was reporting that the woman was walking in and out of traffic and  they were trying to talk with her. The next report was that they were fighting with her in the ditch.  When Officer Chubb arrived he told me he could see her struggling with them.  Witnesses reported that she was screaming that she wanted to go back into traffic and die.  suicdal-2

These types of situations are heart-rending and difficult.  We know that people engaged in this type of behavior feel desperate at that moment because of whatever may be going on in their life.  We also know that later, after appropriate treatment, they look back on that day and realize that their life has value and that it is possible to move on to happier days in the future.

By their actions yesterday, Great Lakes Crossings Assistant Security Director Howard Piotrovsky and Security Officer Mike Smith gave this woman the chance to find that better future when they risked their own lives by going out on the freeway in moving traffic.  At that moment it was not what she thought she wanted, but they persisted because they are decent, caring human beings trying to help.

I ran into Bryan at the end of his shift yesterday.  He wanted me to understand how strongly he believed that Howard and Mike saved tsuicidal-3his woman’s life—he is convinced that without them, she would not have survived.

The security crew at Great Lakes Crossings are great partners.  We work together daily and together we provide a safe environment for visitors at the mall. We all know each other and we have a deep respect for what Howard and Mike did yesterday. We will be presenting Assistant Security Director Howard Piotrovsky and Security Officer Mike Smith with a Lifesaving Award at our upcoming awards event.

I called Howard myself to thank him and let him know that I understood the risk he and Mike took and that he gave the woman another chance at life.  Being a humble guy, he just said thanks.

Officer Lane Recieves a Letter of Thanks

Every now and then I am gratified to receive a letter from a person who has been a victim in our town who writes us to let us know about the experience they had when they have to contact the police.  We are well aware that having to call us is mostly a bad thing.  People call us because something bad has happened and they need our help. They are usually upset and not having a good day, to say the least.

Today I wanted to share with you a letter we received from a victim about the

michael-lane-3

Officer Mike Lane

actions of Officer Mike Lane.  She called us to report the theft of her iPad.  She was worried about all her personal information accessible through the device.  When she called I doubt that she thought she’d ever see her iPad again.  When Mike responded he investigated what happened to the iPad and was able to locate it and secure its return from the person who stole it.  Here at the AHPD we encourage officers to go beyond just recording the facts in a report wherever possible.  We want them to be investigators with a goal of trying to get people  their property back, if we can. Mike did just that.

I know there are people out there who don’t bother to call the police when they are victimized because they don’t believe there is anything we can do.  And more often than we’d like that is the case.  But not all of the time as Officer Lane proved.

And by the way – he never told us about his actions in the case.  He’s a modest, unassuming kind of guy.  But a valued and respected member of our team.

Here is her letter:

lane-thanks_redacted