By Ingrid Sjostrand
2019 IS SHAPING UP TO BE A GOOD YEAR for the Hazel Park Police Department. The city has seen a decline in crime and the Department is looking to increase its police staff, according to Chief of Police Brian Buchholz.
“In 2018 we saw some significant decreases in crimes compared to 2017 in terms of robbery, breaking & entering, larcenies, motor vehicle theft, malicious destruction of property, retail fraud and felony assaults,” he says.
This has allowed the Department, which currently has 34 full time sworn-in officers, to focus on filling open positions, a somewhat arduous task due to a scarcity of candidates.
“One of the challenges across the country in law enforcement is retaining and finding new employees for law enforcement,” Chief Buchholz says. “Despite this, I feel we have a strong team here in Hazel Park and we are excited to get our staffing to our preferred levels. We replaced a detective position that was vacant for a period of time and added an officer to a federal task force; both positions that will benefit the City and Police Department.”
The success of the Department wouldn’t be possible without the citizens of Hazel Park and actions as simple as keeping police informed if they see something out of the ordinary.
“I believe a lot of our success is dependent on our residents. They are our eyes and ears. If they can look out for each other and contact us when they see something suspicious in their neighborhood, that is the key to our success,” Chief Buchholz says.
THE DEPARTMENT OFFERS SEVERAL PROGRAMS FOR RESIDENTS who want to get more involved in the safety of Hazel Park, including Neighborhood Watch, the Mobile Communications Support Unit and the Reserve Officer Unit, each offering various levels of involvement ranging from watchful citizens to armed and uniformed volunteers. The Department also hosts quarterly meetings updating residents on what is happening in the community and how to protect their neighborhoods.
Another key to a smooth-running police force is the communication among all City departments, something Chief Buchholz says Hazel Park excels at.
“One thing I’ve seen since becoming Chief is the great communication between all the departments in the City,” he says. “The City Council and City Manager have created a great environment for us all to communicate; this helps us all achieve the best possible outcomes for all and that benefits the city also.”
Chief Buchholz hopes that with continued collaboration, the Police Department can focus on helping the city thrive and continue to decrease crime in 2019.
THE HAZEL PARK FIRE DEPARTMENT RESPONDED TO 3,527 CALLS IN 2018, including 2,655 medical calls and 872 fire runs. The Department consists of 20 members, including the Fire Marshall and Fire Chief Rich Story II. I sat down with Chief Story to discuss the state of the Hazel Park Fire Department in 2019 and how residents can help support their city:
What are the goals for the HPFD in 2019?
Chief Story: We are always proud to provide top-quality service, expedient response times and a kind, professional smile to our citizens and visitors. We’ve started offering CPR classes to those interested and have trained and established a CERT team. In May, we’re hosting a vehicle extrication class to keep our skills sharp and learn about new vehicle construction.
Can you tell me more about the CERT team?
CERT is the Community Emergency Response Team and used for large-scale emergencies. The team assists in notifying the public about any emergency information and could also assist at our Memorial Day festival with traffic control and general first aid.
What are some of the biggest challenges the HPFD faces in 2019?
Some of our challenges are recruiting and retention of firefighters. Fire service is at an all-time low in job interest and retention is difficult because the City of Hazel Park only has so many resources -it’s difficult to compete with cities with deeper coffers. When a nearby city is hiring probationary firefighters at the same rate we pay our captains, it makes it very difficult to keep personnel.
The HPFD has agreements in place to assist Ferndale and Madison Heights as needed. Tell me more about this program and how it affects the Department?
This is an Auto Aid agreement. When one Department has a fire of any severity, their dispatch calls the other two cities automatically and those cities send a fire truck with two or three personnel if the manpower is available. This helps each city by increasing the numbers of firefighters on the scene to extinguish the fire, making a safer and more efficient firefighting team. This has worked very well since implementing it approximately ten years ago.
How can Hazel Park residents keep informed and participate in programs offered by HPFD?
We try to keep everything on social media. We loan out canes, crutches, walkers and wheelchairs to our residents on a temporary basis. We have a smoke detector program, and we will supply residents with a smoke detector if they stop by the station and can install it if needed. As stated above, we offer CPR classes to citizens and install and inspect child safety seats.
What are some things the residents might not know the Fire Department does?
The Fire Department performs all the checking and maintenance of our fire hydrant system. The HPFD also tries to stay involved with the community; we’re involved with several clubs and are active at city functions. Our Fire Marshall, Jeff Woodcock, works hand-in-hand with the building and code departments making sure businesses comply with rules. He shows businesses how to utilize their fire extinguishers and investigates all our fires in conjunction with Oakland County Sheriff’s Department Fire investigation team. Last but certainly not least, the HPFD provides advanced life support care (paramedics) and transport to the area hospitals.
What is your favorite thing about the City of Hazel Park?
My favorite thing is the diversity of calls we respond to, the camaraderie we have as a Department and how each city department works together. I’m extremely happy to have been able to provide service to Hazel Park for 25 years. I wouldn’t change anything in my time here; I lead a great team and work for a great community.