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Tag Archive | "Kent County Sheriff"

Sheriff, Larry Stelma meets with local Pastors

Sheriff Larry Stelma with Pastor Timothy Hall of Grace Community Church in Belmont.

Sheriff Larry Stelma with Pastor Timothy Hall of Grace Community Church in Belmont.

Asks for their help to address root cause of youth crime

Grand Rapids — In a recent meeting with Kent County area pastors, Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma urged active involvement from the clergy to address youth crime and incarceration. He outlined the scope of the problem with troubled youth who end up in custody.

 Far too many teenagers that we see in our facility lack adequate education and have no marketable skills to be successful in the workforce,” said Sheriff Stelma. “Furthermore, many have mental health issues and are drug or alcohol dependent.”

Sheriff Stelma said the Kent County Correctional Facility will process 25,000 inmates a year. “Of that 25,000 inmates, over 2,100 are teenagers—14 to 19 years old. And these numbers do not include those in juvenile homes.  Of the 2,100 teenagers incarcerated in the Kent County Correctional Facility during the course of a year, 1,500 of them indicate they have some gang affiliation,” Sheriff Stelma added. 

 Sheriff Stelma said 78 percent of these teenagers will go back in the system within three years. At $80 a day, with the average length of stay being ten days, this equates to $1.7 million dollars a year to jail teenagers in the Kent County Jail.

 Sheriff Stelma also addressed solutions to the youth crime problem that that can begin early in a child’s life—before a crime has even been committed. These solutions include high-quality early education and programs that support at-risk youth and families and are shown to address the root behavioral causes of criminal activity.

 He pointed to the evidence developed by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit anti-crime organization, of which he is a member. It includes more than 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, attorneys general and other law enforcement leaders and violence survivors. 

 “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids supports programs that are proven to cut crime and save taxpayer dollars by making wise investments in programs that reach kids early,” he said. “I am proud to be a member of this organization since it started 20 years ago. We have worked with our lawmakers both in Lansing and Washington to make sure they understand the benefits of investing public dollars in proven programs to help kids succeed in school and beyond,” Sheriff Stelma emphasized. 

Programs that Fight Crime: Invest in Kids supports include high-quality preschool, voluntary home visiting, effective programs delivered in the after school time period, and child and family coaching for troubled children. All these programs help kids get on track and stay on track for success and opportunity—and avoid a life in and out of the criminal justice system.

 In Michigan, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids is led by more than 500 of Michigan’s best-known police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and crime survivors. It operates under the Council for a Strong America, the umbrella nonprofit for five membership organizations comprising the unique and powerful voices of law enforcement, business, military, faith and sports, working together to prepare young Americans for success.

The Council for a Strong America’s faith organization, Shepherding the Next Generation, is led by former Kent County State Representative Tom Pearce, who serves as the national director. Pearce also spoke to the pastors and encouraged them to join Shepherding the Next Generation and to be advocates for youth as part of their ministry.

By getting at the front-end through prevention programs, as pastors we can reduce the negative consequences at the tail-end that usually result in shattered lives and high costs associated with incarceration,” he said.

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Trick or treat in Cedar Springs

Are you ready to trick or treat in Cedar Springs?

Are you ready to trick or treat in Cedar Springs?

It’s only two days until Halloween—are you ready for a night full of fun? Does the thought of greeting scores of trick or treaters make you break out in a cold sweat? Forget staying home! Pack up the kids and come out Halloween night for the Annual Cedar Springs Area Halloween Spooktacular in Cedar Springs! Sponsored by the Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, area businesses and churches, the fun begins at 4:30 p.m. with trick or treating at area businesses up and down Main Street, some side streets, and 17 Mile until 7 p.m. Special events include a haunted library at the Cedar Springs Library at the corner of Cherry and Second from 5-7 p.m.; a haunted school house at the Cedar Springs Historical Museum on Cedar Street in Morley Park from 5-7; Calvary Assembly of God will have lots of games and candy and prizes at the corner of Main and Ash from 5-7 p.m.; the Kent County Sheriff Traffic Squad will hand out hot chocolate and donuts at the Cedar Springs firebarn at W. Maple and Second St. again this year, and The Springs Church will host Trunk-or-Treat from 6-8 p.m., in their parking lot at the corner of Maple and First Street, along with a giant slide, and refreshments.

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New 35,000 square foot arena a public/private effort

Property offers Olympic sized outdoor arena, indoor arena, trails

By Beth Altena


 Kent County Sheriff Deputy Celesta VanderVeen snuggles with horse Dewey during an event for the public to see the new arena. Children were given rides on the facility’s eight horses during the evening. Photo by B. Altena.

Kent County Sheriff Deputy Celesta VanderVeen snuggles with horse Dewey during an event for the public to see the new arena. Children were given rides on the facility’s eight horses during the evening. Photo by B. Altena.

“This is the result of public/private efforts,” said Kent County Sheriff Lawrence Stelma during the grand opening of the Kent County Sheriff Department’s Mounted Division indoor arena last Wednesday, October 16. The event happened two years after Kent County donated 30 acres of land and a 100-year-old barn to the Sheriff Department to house the mounted division at 4687 Kroes in Rockford.

Stelma said the new facility could not have happened without countless volunteer hours and effort and offers a permanent home to the horses of the mounted division. In addition, there will be a wide variety of opportunities for the public to interact with officers and horses and use the facilities for any number of equestrian events and competitions. The 35,000-square-foot arena went up this summer and will offer indoor riding, space for ten horses, classrooms, offices and equipment storage.

The need for a mounted division became apparent after the 2000 opening of Millenium Park, which Stelma characterized as a “very large park.” As a search and rescue tool, the mounted division is priceless for covering terrain of all types. Officers on horses are also ideal for crowd control because of the height and visibility of the riders. Stelma said it is estimated that one mounted officer is as effective as ten officers on foot in crowds.

The mounted division is an extension of the Traffic Squad, which is Kent County’s oldest civilian law enforcement support organization—serving Kent County since 1917. Mounted officers serve in a volunteer capacity and are responsible for their own gear and equipment. Stelma said the division currently has eight horses, but there is a need for ten or twelve. He praised Kent County’s Director of Parks, Roger Sabine, for recommending this property. He praised Kent County for having the vision to see what a good fit the property would be for the use and offering it.

The first phase for the project took place in 2011 with a renovation of the barn and fencing an outdoor arena and pastures. Phase II was the stalls, facility and riding arena. Visitors were told there are outside trails prepared as well. Stelma also thanked key personnel on the project, Don DeGroot who spent so many hours cutting and nailing the boards of the facility and stalls that his fellow officers threatened to buy him a hammock so he could sleep over. His efforts go back to day one.

“I told him we wanted a mounted division and he asked what the budget was,” stated Stelma. “I told him there wasn’t one.”

DeGroot said the research into what a mounted division would look like goes back two years before the “real” work began. He said most are reservists who keep their animals themselves. “We decided that wasn’t the way we wanted to go,” DeGroot said. He said it is much more efficient, especially for search and rescue, for the horses to be at one location. He described that all officers and all horses are cross trained, so if one horse is under the weather, another will do just as well.

 Kids were all smiles while sheriff deputies help them ride around the new arena for the Kent County Sheriff’s Mounted Division during a grand opening last week. Photo by B. Altena.

Kids were all smiles while sheriff deputies help them ride around the new arena for the Kent County Sheriff’s Mounted Division during a grand opening last week. Photo by B. Altena.

The department was able to purchase their first horse in 2007 and build up a stable that was kept at the Kent County Honor Camp. In 2011, budget issues closed the camp and the horses were stabled individually as space was available. DeGroot said mounted search and rescue is so effective the organization receives many requests for help all across the state of Michigan.

He said since the beginning, the organization of the project, and the fundraising, became such a challenge the department assigned the duties to Chad Wieber, who donated his hours free of charge on top of his full-time job with the Sheriff Department. “Chad has done a wonderful job getting us to this point.”

Stelma spoke about the importance of generous donors to the project and introduced a family member of the late Peter Cook to speak. Donations toward the arena allowed it to be the Peter Cook Arena, and Ryan Cook said, “Our community works best when we work together. The traffic squad is a good example of that.” He said the work of the volunteers offered the best bang for the buck. “It’s hard to say no to that.” He said he knew the mounted division does unparalled work in search and rescue, as well as many other duties, such as presidential security.

Stelma introduced world-renowned philanthropist Peter Secchia, who was on hand for the event. Secchia talked of his determination to see the mounted division become a reality. He recalled friends the late Fred Meijer and Peter Cook, who also strongly believed in the idea. “They were two wonderful, wonderful people. This was something they wanted and I wanted. I am sure they are looking down on this now. They wanted it to happen.”

Kent County Administer Daryll Delabbio and Cook were both presented with Kent County Mounted Division gold shields, but were warned the position was honorary and had no law enforcement powers included.

The arena and grounds will be available for the public to use for horse-related events, from shows to 4-H events and for the Rockford Public School Equestrian Team. Dr. Shibler, Superintendent of RPS, said the team competes across the state. He called the whole complex “outstanding,” and said he was most impressed that it was accomplished without taxpayer money, but by fundraising, donations and volunteer work.


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Police seek suspects in home invasion

The Kent County Sheriff Department is seeking the suspects responsible for at least one and maybe more home invasions in northern Kent County last week.
Police took a report on September 8 of a home invasion in the 11600 block of 16 Mile Road, another on September 9 in the 1500 block of Hull Street, and another in the 3300 block of 20 Mile Road.
According to Detective Justin DeBoode, the home invasions took place during daylight hours, and in one case, two suspects were seen by the homeowner. One of the suspects knocked on the door, and the homeowner, thinking it was someone selling something, didn’t answer it.  A short time later he heard a noise downstairs, and found a man climbing through the window. He was described as a black male, mid 20s, medium build, with short hair. The homeowner also saw a second suspect, a white female, age 30-40, medium build, who had shoulder-length black hair.
The couple got away in a light tan or bronze mid-size SUV.
If you have any information, please call the Kent County Sheriff Department at (616) 632-6100 or Silent Observer at (616) 774-2345.

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