Project Safer Streets: Farmington Hills Police Department uses old, new tactics to change policing

40 cameras expected to be put up

A Metro Detroit police department is doing something new to ensure the public’s safety.

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. – A Metro Detroit police department is doing something new to ensure the public’s safety.

The Farmington Hills Police Department is mixing old and new tactics and facing a bit of controversy. The chief believes everyone will benefit.

Officer Ryan Yudt and his partner Dozer work their beat at a shopping plaza near 12 Mile Road in Farmington Hills. They’re there to build relationships.

Yudt also spends time patrolling neighborhood streets, going back to traditional policing by being a constant presence.

At East Middle School, resource officer Joe Mertes speaks with students during one of the gym classes. He’s trying to build trust.

“I think once we get in a conversation, the other students can see that conversation. They kind of let their guard down and makes them more approachable to me,” Mertes said.

Mertes covers eight schools. He said he knows there’s a negative light on law enforcement and he’s hoping to change that by promoting a positive relationship with the students. He hopes if there’s an issue at school he will hear about it before it becomes a problem.

“My philosophy is to keep the parents, keep the school and law enforcement all on the same page. Have the same amount of information,” Mertes said.

Farmington Hills police Chief Jeff King said it’s a team effort and the department is working close with the community.

Police chief organizes group of community members

King has worked in the department for 27 years.

Farmington Hills, like other departments, are dealing with officers retiring a shortfall of candidates who want the job and at times a mistrust of the public.

That’s why King set up the board made up of members of the community. They meet up regularly to let the chief know their issues related to crime, safety at their businesses and their neighborhoods.

“We want people to have confidence that the police will respond. They will treat you with dignity and respect and that’s one of the reasons I’m on this committee,” resident T.R. Carr said.

The city’s crime mapping system is updated daily. It maintains 180 days worth of crime statistics on the website. Residents can get information on crimes like assault, fraud, vandalism and home break ins.

The high-tech crime fighting goes from the crime mapping to the departments use of drones.

“Solving crimes, preventing crimes, checking for people’s welfare, locating individuals that are missing people,” King said. “That’s something that we are constantly evolving. Our technology, our training, our ability to extract that data out of that -- that device.”

The next addition is coming in August. Forty cameras will be placed strategically around the community looking for certain license plates and car descriptions.

“It’s a computer learning and computer visioning system that allows us to be able to identify a vehicle. There’s no facial recognition, it doesn’t focus on any kind of person in the car or walking by in the area,” King said.

King said the cameras will not be targeting any individuals, instead looking for cars specifically related to a crime or violent criminals. Residents seem to welcome the changes.

You want people to love to come here. You want them to utilize the parks and feel safe. And I think that we have that and we want to help push that forward,” resident Fred Sharp said.

Violent crime in Farmington Hills was up .18% last year. They had two homicides in 2021 and no homicides in 2020. Part-A crimes, serious crimes (assaults, robberies, weapons, etc . . .), increased by 9% in 2021, over 2020.

In 2020, the city saw their lowest serious crimes in the city’s history. In 2021, they saw the third lowest in the city’s history. In 2021 serious crimes were 42% lower than those in 2012. Assaults were down 5.34%. Vandalism incidents were down 10.3%.

In 2021, commercial burglaries were down 3.92% and were at the lowest in the city’s history. In 2021, residential burglaries increased by four incidents but were still the second lowest in the city’s history. Armed robberies were up 3 incidents, to a total of 12, which is the fourth lowest in the city’s history.

The Farmington Hills Police Department has released several links with more information. The crime mapping site can be viewed here.

They also have more information on the coordinated community response team, night watch, hunter safety and a gun lock giveaway.

Police are also working to expand the program links to include:

  • Neighborhood Watch
  • Citizens Police Academy
  • Citizens-Police Advisory Committee
  • Trunk-or-Treats
  • Faith and Blue
  • Autism Awareness and Response Bags
  • Security Surveys
  • Youth Career Day-Elementary School Program
  • ALICE Training Program-Schools and Houses of Worship
  • Police Officer for a Day-High School Program
  • Red, Blue and You-Female Recruitment for First Responders
  • Crime Prevention Times- Monthly Crime Prevention News and Security Recommendations

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.