We Need Your Help – UPDATE

Undoubtedly you have seen or read about ATM thefts using stolen vehicles to ram buildings in other cities.  It is not a form of crime we have seen here until now.  In the last 30 days we had 1 attempt and one successful theft of a machine at the Stadium Party Store, Opdyke and Pontiac.  Other cities are experiencing the same  problem.

Last night at about 0300 we had an attempted theft of a 2007 Dodge Durango in the area of Adams and Auburn Rd. The vehicle owner interrupted the theft and observed two subjects attempting to break into the vehicle both wearing hoodies. One subject was holding a flashlight and crowbar.  The subjects got into a beige Suburban and fled the area. The only thing the owner could say about a plate on the Suburban was that it was a white background with the blue stripe. Shortly after this there was an attempted theft of an ATM in Rochester Hills at Auburn & Adams Rd.

Detectives have met with other cities’ investigators to share information and develop a plan to put a stop to this.  We know that it is a large crew from east and south of us that work in multiple vehicles in a very sophisticated manner.  We have joined forces with other departments and federal agencies because this crime spree is so widespread.  I can’t describe what we are doing but I can tell you we are very active on it.

These events are happening in the early morning hours-0300 to 0600 approximately.  The vehicle is stolen and immediately used to hit a location. We need you to be alert and call us if you see or hear anything you consider suspicious.

And if you drive a Suburban/GMC or Dodge Durango or like vehicle this crew knows some methods that make them easy to steal so if you are driving through town during the hours noted, it is likely that you will be stopped by us to check you out.


Spread the Word – We will NEVER ask you to buy a Green Dot Card, EVER

This scam just keeps happening and today Officer Brianscam-alert-630x472 Miller came upon a new twist.  He sent me this message:

Just took a report from a resident who was called by a random 800 number.  Caller claimed to be from the IRS and advised the subject he owed tax money.  Caller told victim to buy a Green Dot card and pay – victim almost believed the caller because about 30 minutes later he received a call from OUR phone number 248-370-9444, again demanding the money and threatening with arrest.  Obviously the number was “ghosted” to appear as if it was us that called, but since I’m seeing this type of phone number disguising more frequently… Simple remedy – citizens should find the actual phone number independently and call it back…

Detective Brian Martin Honored by Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton, Prosecutor Jessica Cooper and Detective Martin.

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton, Prosecutor Jessica Cooper and Detective Martin.

Today we were privileged to attend Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper’s holiday lunch for her staff where she presented several awards to members of her own staff, police officers and detectives for their work over the past year.

AHPD Detective Brian Martin was one of the police investigators who was singled out for this  “Distinguished Service Award.”  It is great for our staff to be recognized any time for their good work, but this one was excellent in particular because it came from the Prosecutor who deals with the work product of investigators and knows which are of the highest quality.  Her letter said her:

…trial staff surveyed cases they handled this year and made recommendations regarding particularly notable law enforcement personnel who had gone above and beyond the call of duty in the execution of their duties.  The purpose of this was to single out law enforcement personnel whose work epitomized the finest combination of skill, innovation, dedication and professionalism in the pursuit of justice and to recognize them publicly…”

She told me that Brian was a unanimous choice for his work in the analysis of video evidence which helps them win important cases on behalf of the people of this county and the victims of crime.  He has been instrumental in some serious cases by assisting the Prosecutor’s Office with analysis of video.  Today the Prosecutor talked about his work on the Northland Mall case where security officers were trying to detain an individual who had threatened people, and unfortunately inadvertently causing his death.  Detective Martin’s role was to examine the video and enhance the detail so that the facts could be ascertained in a step-by-step review of what happened.  He helped to find the truth of the matter.  That is the highest calling of a detective – to find the truth.


Prosecutor Cooper, in her remarks, talked to her staff about the partnership between police and prosecutors.  She made the point to them that police and prosecutors have a shared responsibility –together we are law enforcement.  Her Chief Assistant, Paul Walton made a similar point when he said that we stand together when we secure a conviction and we stand together when the case is dismissed if that is what “justice demands.”  Whatever the outcome, police and prosecutors face it together.

We truly are partners with their office and I am very pleased that they recognize Detective Martin’s commitment and the high skill level he brings to the job.

All of the investigators receiving awards.

All of the investigators receiving awards today.

We are proud of Brian and of what he achieves for our department and for the Prosecutor’s Office and for the people of Oakland County.  We know what an outstanding detective he is and we are pleased that he is being acknowledged publicly on a county level.

Great work and congratulations, Brian!



Hall of Shame: Cops catch ‘King of Craigslist’ – Fox 2 News Headlines

Here’s an interesting investigative news story by Fox 2 that we just completed.  I appreciated Huel Perkins’ and Rob Walchek’s comments at the end of the story where they each commented on what a great job Detective Brian Martin did on this case.  Nice to see instances where good work is recognized publicly.


Hall of Shame: Cops catch ‘King of Craigslist’ – Fox 2 News Headlines.

Understanding Response Times for Police

Recently a resident of the city brought a complaint to the City Council meeting to tell them that he found the response by our police to a particular call to have been too slow.  We had heard from his family previously and so we are investigating the matter in hopes that we can resolve his concerns.images

But in listening to him I realized that many people may have his same perception that response times for police have value in determining the effectiveness of the police.  While response times have long been used to evaluate fire department responses, they are no longer used by policing experts and scholars to  determine police effectiveness.  Police response time really only measures how fast we can drive.  It doesn’t impact the outcome of the cases in the vast majority of instances.  For example, we know that building alarms are false 98% of the time.  Should we then drive at high rates of speed that endanger ourselves and the public when the only information we have is that an alarm is going off?  We know that the alarm companies often call the owners before they call us so there can be a long delay between the time the alarm is actually triggered and when we receive the report.  We know that when we have thunderstorms, alarms go off all over town due to the electrical impacts of the storm–should we continue a high priority response?  The most critical factor in whether police can impact an in progress call is how quickly it is reported meaning from the time of the incident itself, not discovery but occurrence.   Many policing experts would say that using police response times as a measure of police effectiveness is much more of a political  manuever than a useful law enforcement measurement tool.

There isn’t a standard for police response times.  Departments define emergency calls differently–some kinds of calls have a higher priority than others and it varies department by department based often on the resources of the agency and the volume of calls among other factors.  We are low in staffing right now, we are hiring but people are retiring faster than we are able to get them replaced right now.  So we have to deal with our limited resources when we prioritize calls.  We sometimes have to queue calls that we don’t want to queue and when we do that the sergeant is notified so that he or she can prioritize the calls in “pending” when they feel it necessary.  We prioritize life safety as first, meaning that we put reported injury vehicles crashes way up on our lights and sirens list.  We are now responding lights and sirens with fire units to medical calls when someone is having a heart attack or something that we can impact by getting on scene quickly.  So I’m not saying that we don’t respond quickly to some kinds of things–we are just highly selective.  It is largely in the judgement of the dispatcher and the supervisor.  The dispatcher asks lots of questions because they are trying to determine the emergency status of any call and make sure the right resources are sent.  (More on that in an upcoming blog)

I realize that quick response by the police is a citizen satisfaction issue.  When you call us you want us there as quickly as possible.  But if we start emphasizing response time as a primary measure of performance for our officers, other departments have found that traffic crashes will increase because the officers are driving more quickly to calls–and that is not an outcome that we want.

We do look at other measures of department performance –one of the most important ones is case clearance.  This is a measure of case outcomes-what we do when a case is reported to us.  The standards are set by the FBI who defines how cases can be closed, the primary ones being arrest and exceptional clearance.  Arrest means that we’ve identified a perpetrator and brought them into custody.  Exceptional clearance means that we have identified the perpetrator but can’t arrest them because they are dead, the victim refused to cooperate, things like that.  We clear at a high rate-of course we always are trying to improve that.  We clear at 58% which is pretty good when the statewide average is around 33% pretty consistently.  You can find more information on other communities on the Michigan State Police website under the ‘statistics” tab.

There are a lot of factors that go into police response times.  Here is a Wall Street Journal article “Giving No Time to Misleading Police Stats” on the subject from August 2013 that gives a good view of the complexity of the subject.  One of the experts quoted in the article, Leonard Matarese, is from the ICMA who did a study of our department in 2010 – 2011 and one of the factors they looked at was our response time and at that time they found us satisfactory in that regard.

We do understand your concerns and we do want to meet your expectations.   When we get on scene we want to do a thorough and complete job so that we catch the bad guy.  Every member of the department is committed to a safe community and we’ll continue doing our best to achieve that goal.

Mall Exercise Last Night

We had an EXCELLENT training event last night at Great Lakes Crossings Mall.  It was a full-scale event involving people who played roles as the bad guys AKA active shooters, press people, wounded victims.  Most of us, including me, played our own roles–what we would do in the event of an incident like this.  FBI was there.  Oakland County Homeland Security,
Great Lakes Crossings Security, other police agencies with officers trained to respond to this kind of event, Oakland County Sheriff’s Office swat team members–all in all more than 300 people.  Even the Salvation Army came out to help with coffee and hot dogs for the participants in that cold, cold rain.

Lt Miarka briefing the teams in staging prior to event start.

Lt Miarka briefing the teams in staging prior to event start.

Of course, there are always unexpected things that happen.  Like the rollover freeway crash on southbound I-75 right at the time the mall traffic was exiting.  We had to close the freeway ramp at Joslyn for a while so as not to add to the traffic jam since we had to close some lanes for a time.  Then another injury crash came in north of the mall area in a subdivision and we had to divert units there.  So we got started a little late.  Not to mention that yesterday was a looonnnggg day for our Fire Department.  Deputy Director Manning, Assistant Chief Macias and many of our personnel were on the scene of the tornado hit in Rochester Hills as mutual aid beginning at about 6:30 am.  And it was a cold, dank rain.  But that is just what life is like–we operate in the real world so there is no idea of postponing for any reason.

I admit that it was chilling listening to the original dispatch of armed men in the mall and an officer down.  I was sitting in a vehicle with Deputy Director Hardesty waiting to be deployed.  Deputy Director Manning was in his vehicle parked behind us, also waiting.  There is a system to the response on an event like this and we have all been trained extensively.  We use the federal National Incident Management System developed by FEMA after 9/11 to organize ourselves and make it possible for agencies to work together.  My job was to establish an incident command post taking over command of the overall incident and assisting the operational command post staffed by sergeants on scene, so that we deal with the next level of the incident.  There is a great deal to be done.  At first we waited silently listening to the dispatch and the response of the initial officers–after a while training takes over and you begin to think about what needs to be done, by whom and when.  In the initial phases we have limited resources so there was only a handful of us at the command post level to deal with everything from city elected officials who are calling wanting information, to the media and public information, to the needs of reunification of people and victims involved in the event, to the investigation (it is a big crime scene, remember?), as well as the overall fire and rescue aspects.  The event is dynamic and moving very quickly.

Overall it was a big success.  Whenever we do it we learn some things that we think we can do better next time.  We had lots of observers watching and evaluating us.  We’ll get that information assembled in the coming days so that we can review it and consider specific improvements.  But I think we did well overall.  One of the things we wanted to test was the Rescue Task Force.  We recently developed and trained our fire and police personnel to respond together to a “warm” zone  (not totally safe) to treat injured.  We are the first ones in this region to take up this new aspect.  We decided to do it because in some of these incidents like the LAX shooting, Aurora theater and others, victims have died while waiting for medical help because they were down in an unsecured area.  Traditional fire training puts medics in a triage area away from the action with the police bringing victims out.  Of our team of medics, 14 volunteered for the training –they are not armed but they wear ballistic helmets and bullet resistant vests and are guarded by police as they enter “warm” and even “hot” zones to locate and give basic treatment.  We had some local fire chiefs on hand to observe that aspect.

Firefighters gearing up as a rescue task force.

Firefighters gearing up as a rescue task force.

Lt. Miarka, who with assistance from FBI personnel, Oakland Sheriff’s Office and others, set up this mammoth undertaking which took about a year to plan.  He was here early this am, just like usual–( he looks a little tired though.)  Part of the planning was his extensive study of mall shootings around the country to learn what other police said about what happened and how they dealt with it.  He shared with us what he learned.  The event was modeled on some of the other events.  The bad guys keep morphing their techniques and we must do the same.

Rescue task force in action. Officers guarding medics who are helping victims.

Rescue task force in action. Officers guarding medics who are helping victims.

Great Lakes Crossings Mall is a very safe environment, precisely because they enthusiastically partner with us to train and practice for an event we pray we never have to meet.

Even Fox 2 came out to report on our training.


Good Guys Win One

Last night I was still in my office when I heard the report of a robbery being dispatched-something that doesn’t happen with any frequency here.   Almost immediately Officer Joel Foreman reported that he had picked up the suspect vehicle leaving the scene of the robbery.  He attempted to stop the car but the driver ignored the lights and continued to drive, ultimately heading toward Great Lakes Crossings mall.  The robbery occurred at the BP gas station across from the Palace.  At one point, the suspect’s vehicle struck Sgt. Groehn’s vehicle trying to get away.  Despite the efforts of Sergeant Steve Groehn and his team of officers from our department, the Sheriff’s Office and Lake Angelus, the suspect managed to get the car parked in the mall parking lot and escaped on foot.   Officers found the car quickly and worked with mall security to pin down the area looking for the suspect.  Dispatch disseminated information through the mall merchants and ultimately we got a call from one of them with important information and then more calls from helpful  citizens helping us locate the suspect as he was trying to leave the area on foot after he had changed his appearance.

As the woman in this video says, a robbery here is pretty rare.  Great Lakes Crossings is a very safe place.  We appreciate the help and support we get from this community to solve crimes and this was a perfect example.

The suspect is currently in custody, will be charged today and go before a judge this afternoon.


Missing In Michigan

MIM flyer 2014 final

Is there anything sadder than a loved one who disappears and is never heard from again?  Parents who disappear, children who go missing as a result of being a runaway or a kidnapping of a non custodial parent?  To never know what happened to someone in your life is tragic.

Currently, there are over 4,500 Missing Persons actively reported missing in the state of Michigan.  Since 2011, the disappearances of 32 persons have been solved by the efforts of the MIM and ID the Missing Events,  22 Missing Persons were matched to Unidentified Remains cases in our state,  10 Missing Persons were found alive due to investigative efforts after the events.  There are 276 Unidentified Remains cases unsolved in our state.  Michigan is ranked third in the Nation for the amount of reported missing persons, only behind California and Texas. This event was created to recognize and provide support for families of Missing Persons in our state.

A recent Genesee county case was solved with the NAMUS database, the disappearance of PAULETTE JASTER, who went missing in 1979 from Davison, MI, she was matched to unidentified remains found in Houston, TX in 1980. She had been the victim of a hit-and-run pedestrian fatality and was not identified since she had no identification when she was struck.

A second event called “ID the MISSING was created to also assist families of Missing Persons from our state.  The ID the Missing Events are held in addition to the annual MIM Event to supplement the need for additional DNA collection events.  ID the Missing events are held at the county Medical Examiner’s Offices and included the submission of unidentified human remains DNA samples.

NAMUS-Is the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System and can be found at www.namus.gov. It was established in 2005 by the National Institute of Justice and is a searchable web database created to assist in solving cases that involve missing persons and unidentified human remains.

All of the DNA is processed at the University of North TexasCenter for Human Identification Under a federal grant that provides the Family Reference Samples and Unidentified Human Remains samples to be uploaded into National CODIS (The Combined DNA Index System).

If you have someone in your life who has gone missing or if you have information, please attend this event.  Pass the word.


The “CSI Effect”

investigationGenerally speaking, I am not one who can watch TV shows or movies about police.   Many of my friends refuse to watch these kinds of movies or shows with me because they don’t like my constant criticism of the shows as unrealistic.  I like a good story as much as the next person but I don’t like how our profession is presented as entertainment.  I realize that the story wouldn’t be nearly so good if it reflected reality.

With the constant array of detective or policing type shows available I think that a certain mythology has grown up around the work that removes reality and portrays us in only one aspect of our job:  crime fighter. While we are crime fighters, it is only about 20-30% of our overall job.  I realize that it makes good TV to show the constant car chases, shoot outs and other adrenalin inducing action but in fact that isn’t our reality for the most part.  We do a large variety of tasks, where the issue is rather vague and many of the tasks conflict with each other.  It is a complex job that demands that we be ready to pursue and tackle criminals, write traffic tickets to unhappy citizens, tow abandoned vehicles, referee angry neighbor disputes over barking dogs and write detailed reports about all of it.  Dealing with ill-defined problems and finding solutions using the law, common sense and some empathy is a better descriptor of what police do.

Another aspect of this mythology is what we have now termed the”CSI Effect.”  The television show, CSI and others like it seem so real that the methodologies and activities of these fictional characters in a contrived story now influence juries in criminal trials.  As you know, criminals are tried by a jury of their peers – regular folks from all walks of life.  The problem we see now is that jurors now have a distorted view of forensic evidence.  “Why didn’t the police get the DNA of the tire track in the burglary case to tie it to the defendant who drove through a farm yard with unique dirt and debris after committing the crime?”  In fact we have limited resources and limited access to DNA and as a result we must pick and choose where we use it.  Generally DNA analysis is reserved for serious felony cases of crimes against persons like serious assaults where someone is seriously injured.  We simply can’t use it on every case.  So we go to trial on the evidence we have.  The law says that a jury must convict if the evidence in the case indicates that the defendant committed the offense beyond a “reasonable doubt”–not the same as beyond ANY doubt.  But juries are shocking us with acquittals of defendants because they had an unreasonable expectation of what police can do.

When you are watching CSI or any other TV show or movie about the police, just remember –IT IS NOT REALITY.

For more information on the topic, click here:  http://www.npr.org/2011/02/06/133497696/is-the-csi-effect-influencing-courtrooms

Do I feel lucky?

Here is a blast from the past – 2011 to be precise. I thought it deserved a re run. Just to update you, Lt. Hardesty has now become Deputy Director Hardesty and the Investigations Division is now managed by Lt. Jill McDonnell.

Auburn Hills Police Department

If you are a fan of cop shows you might recognize the title of this post as a quote from Dirty Harry Callahan, the fictional San Franciso detective.  I think he is one of the most popular movie detectives.  Police detectives are often the main characters of TV shows and movies.  They are portrayed in many ways and often with quirky personalities and methodologies.

In the movies and on television, they lead exciting work lives, live on boats and operate outside the confining/corrupt nature of the police department while their personal lives are a sad mess due to their job–isn’t that the story line? 

One of my own favorites was Barney Miller , a great TV show from the 1970s.  I always thought it was quite accurate in its portrayal of detectives.  (If you are one of our detectives I’m just kidding…… well maybe not). 

Real detectives lead normal personal lives…

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