New sheriff in town: Saugatuck switches police service

Allegan County

SAUGATUCK, Mich. (WOOD) — This week, for the first time in 20 years, the streets of Saugatuck will be patrolled by Allegan County sheriff’s deputies.

Saugatuck decided in February to withdraw from the joint police department it had long partnered with the neighboring city of Douglas to run. The move was made to save money.

On Monday, the Saugatuck city manager said he didn’t expect a noticeable difference in safety.

“It’s probably not a safe thing to say we’re increasing or decreasing,” City Manager Kirk Harrier told 24 Hour News 8. “We had coverage before and we have coverage now.”

Sheriff’s deputies took over law enforcement service Saturday night, making this their first full week on patrol.

“We’re going to have all four of our deputies on and our reserves,” Allegan County Sheriff Frank Baker said, laying out his department’s Fourth of July patrol plans for Saugatuck.

Previously, two officers from the joint Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department went back and forth between the cities. Under the new contract with the sheriff’s office, four officers have been assigned to Saugatuck. The sheriff said they will go where they are needed and cover different shifts.

>>PDF: Law enforcement contract

Opponents to Saugatuck leaving the joint department argued it would make for longer response times.

“There is going to be times maybe when what we consider is a nonemergency-type call when somebody may have to wait a little longer,” Baker said when 24 Hour News 8 put that issue to him Monday. “But if it’s an emergency call, you are going to get the sheriff’s office, the state police, everyone’s response to true emergencies.”

Records show Saugatuck has low crime with only a few calls each day for law enforcement service, if that.

Baker said he doesn’t expect that to change.

“I don’t see where there would be that concern,” he said. “Our goal is hopefully that they are going to see us more than what they have when they were contracted with Douglas.”

The three-year contract with the sheriff’s office is expected to save Saugatuck about $220,000 annually. The money saved will go toward improvements to city roads and parks.

“Saugatuck is going to continue to be great place to come and visit like it always has,” Harrier said.

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