DETROIT (WWJ) – “If you have warrants, you’re probably gonna get arrested.”
That’s the message to Belle Isle visitors from Michigan State Police Captain Monica Yesh, who spoke before the Detroit City Council on Tuesday to address concerns about the number of people being pulled over in the park.
Yesh described one traffic stop made when a car full of women was caught speeding in a 25 mile per hour zone.
“When we stopped them, they were going to a baby shower,” she said. “The driver did not have a valid driver’s license and she had warrants out for her arrest.”
Officers searched the car and found a half-pound of marijuana, Yesh said; and to make matters worse, added Ltn. Robert Hendrix: “It was actually stuck in the diaper bag and it was gonna be the gift for the…person who was having the child.”
Under the terms of a 30-year lease, the state took control of the 985-acre island park on Feb. 10. At that time, policing by the MSP and Department of Natural Resources officers began.
Police told council members, as of Tuesday, they’d made 671 traffic stops on Belle Isle. Those arrested in the last two months include 14 felons and 61 fugitives. Three guns were seized during that time.
However, of those 671 stops, Yesh said, 613 people were given a verbal warning rather than a ticket, along with a talking to about the park’s rules and regulations.
Yesh said the goal of state police and the DNR is to “make Belle Isle a safe place for everyone…so people want to go there and enjoy themselves.”
Among those pulled over since the state takeover are Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who admitted to speeding in the park, and City Clerk Janice Winfrey, who was outraged when a trooper told her they’re working to keep the island free of “riffraff.”
Police said the trooper who stopped Winfrey is no longer patrolling Belle Isle.
Winfrey said she’s stopped visiting the park and will encourage her friends and family — especially the “young males” — to do the same, until something changes.
“…You know what? I appreciate the troopers and what they’re doing out there. I think most citizens want a clean, safe Belle Isle,” Winfrey told WWJ’s Vickie Thomas. “However, it is important, though, that they reach out to Detroiters to educate, to inform them of what’s required to be on Belle Isle.”
“It is a park that we go to, and we want to feel comfortable, and we wanna feel welcome there; and we’re not sure that all of us feel just welcome at this time,” she said. “So, they’re working on it and I’d just like them to work a little harder.”
Ron Scott, a spokesman for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, has said he’s concerned about alleged “disrespectful” and “aggressive” treatment of citizens on the island.
Police have said they haven’t taken any direct complaints.