Tag Archives: Meridian Township

Meridian’s police force maintains safe community

When living in a major city, hearing about high-speed chases, armed robberies and homicides is not an unusual circumstance. However, in small towns and municipalities like Meridian Township, these crimes have come in sporadic moments. Not what someone would consider a part of daily life.

The town could even be considered “boring,” by crime standards. Yet, Meridian’s residents and law enforcement are just fine with holding that title.

The Meridian Police Department has a force of 45 full-time officers. With 39,116 residents in the municipality, Meridian Township is considered a safe community. Violent crime is very low, with the last murder more than four years ago.

In the most recent police report, from July 1 to Sept. 30, 2007, Meridian Township has seen a six percent decrease in an already low robbery rate, larceny and traffic accidents. Sergeant Randy Kindy credits both the Meridian Police and the town’s residents for the low crime rate.

“We have quality police service, our department does an excellent job of taking a proactive approach to crime,” said Kindy, who has been a member of the Meridian Police Department for 26 years. “Plus, our relationship with the school systems is excellent. I think people enjoy the service.”

Juliet Wang, a Michigan State University journalism junior and Okemos native agreed.

“I’ve lived in Okemos my whole life and can’t really recall seeing any major crime here,” said Wang. “You would think with the town being next to a major university more crime would occur, but it’s not like that. It’s a safe place to live.”

The biggest increase was robbery. Based on the third quarterly report, from July 1 to Sept. 30, 2007, robbery increased by 300%, from 1 in the 2006 third quarterly rate to 4 in 2007. The biggest drop was larceny, which had a six percent decrease from 186 in 2006 to 174 in 2007.
Another continuing trend is the increase in rape and attempted rape. There has been a 67 percent increase in this category, from six cases in 2006 to 10 in 2007. Sergeant Randy Kindy wants to crack down on all forms of crime, regardless of what it is.

“All crime needs to be addressed,” said Kindy. “You can’t just pick one in particular, they are all important.”

Despite an overall low crime rate, the Police Department has numerous services to keep it that way and prevent future issues. They are aware that in order to maintain a safe environment, the community has to be involved as well.

Organizations such as the neighborhood watch, citizen academy and Capitol Area Response Effort or C.A.R.E. all provide both the police and the town’s population way for both to interact with each other to keep the crime rate low.

The Neighborhood Watch Program involves everyday people who keep an eye out in their neighborhood if a criminal activity takes place. They are able to warn other neighbors and report incidents to the police.

The Citizen Academy is offered by the Meridian Police Department and they inform people about the judicial system and the police department.

C.A.R.E is a program implemented to help victims and families of domestic violence. A team of people is on-call whenever a domestic dispute happens.

These and other programs are ways in which the community joins forces with Meridian Township Police Department to ensure and maintain a safe environment for everyone.

“The fact that we have a good relationship with the community’s residents helps us do our job as police officers,” said Kindy. “That’s the main thing, the professionalism.”

For more information on volunteering for these organizations and others, contact the Meridian Township Police Department at (517) 853-4800.

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Meridian Township’s female politicians represent change

Meridian Township has changed a lot in 30 years. There were no malls or major businesses and definitely no female politicians. This was the place Mary Helmbrecht, the township’s Clerk, remembered.

“When I first came, there was nothing here. There was only a gas station on Grand River,” said Helmbrecht. “I’ve been here 40 years, and for most of those years, the township board was 100 percent male until Virginia White broke the glass ceiling in 1974.”

Given the people who run the township today, it is hard to imagine men dominated Meridian Township politics.

The Meridian Township Board, which makes all the policy and legislative decisions for the municipality, is 4-3 majority female. The township’s Supervisor, Clerk and two of its Trustees are women. Helmbrecht doesn’t understand how this phenomenon occurred, but feels it was necessary because women needed a voice in politics too.

“I don’t know how this happened, but I will say it has something to do with the fact that women have an equal interest in politics as men.”

Township Supervisor Susan McGillicuddy credits her passion for politics on the environment.
“I entered politics back in 1992,” said McGillicuddy. “I was into land use and urban planning.”
Prior to being appointed a member of the Township Board, McGillicuddy was Meridian’s Planning Commissioner and a member of Meridian’s Zoning Board of Appeals. The irony is that according to McGillicuddy, her past didn’t prepare her for Supervisor position today.

“Growing up, it didn’t prepare me today. My parents never paid attention to local government politics or land use,” said McGillicuddy.

Now, she is the head of a political body and sees the advancement women in politics have made. Nevertheless, she is still aware of the challenges she and other female politicians face.

“There still aren’t enough women,” said McGillicuddy. “There are a few of us, but not enough. I believe in networking so I set up a networking group for women. I don’t think men feel the need to have conversation as much as women.”

With majority of the board female, are the male members intimidated by being outnumbered? Bruce Hunting, the board’s Treasurer, doesn’t think so.

“It’s just fine. For years, I’ve worked with men and women and I never notice the difference,” said Hunting, who was a high school teacher and coach for 31 years.

He added that working with female politicians has been beneficial for everyone.
“They’re willing to discuss the issues and they are patient,” said Hunting.

According to McGillicuddy, the female board members bring something new to the group.
“We bring different perspectives, but we’re geared more towards environmental issues, which hadn’t really been a top priority before,” said McGillicuddy.

While environmental issues, like the preservation of land from being used, have become one of the Board’s major topics, it isn’t the only thing the female have members contributed.

“I bring a passion for elections,” said Helmbrecht. “Since the 1970s, I’ve been involved in the election process. Yes, some members have a passion for environmental issues, but this is a very interesting board because everyone has different passions.”

According to Helmbrecht, their differences on issues stem from political views rather than gender.

“Some of our board members are Republicans and some are Democrats,” said Helmbrecht. “Therefore we have different views on things. But that’s the beauty of it. We don’t clash by party and our thoughts aren’t divided by labels.”

Even McGillicuddy, who is a Republican, gave recognition to Hilary Rodham Clinton, the sole female Democratic nominee for this year’s election.

“I don’t support her, but it’s nice to see a female running for presidency. It shows how far we’ve come.”

Faith-based education in Meridian Township

In St. Martha Catholic School’s mission statement, the goal is to “provide for their children a quality education, presented in the context of Catholic values.” That mission statement is more than just something written on paper.

Being the only Catholic school within Meridian Township’s borderlines, St. Martha, which goes from Pre-School to the eighth grade, takes pride in making using a faith-based educational curriculum to educate its small student population.

With the girls dressed in dark plaid skirts and jumpers with white blouses and the boys in navy blue plants and white dress shirts, covered by v-neck sweaters, St. Martha’s is the image of a Catholic school. However, it is more than an image.

St. Martha has longer school days than public schools, from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm, longer school years, has low student-teacher ratios and students usually rank in the top 10th and 20th percentile nationally in the Stanford Achievement Test.

Unlike its public school counterparts, there is school-wide Mass every Thursday morning. The students have longer school years and school days, from 8:00-3:30 pm.

But according to Francie Herring, principal of St. Martha, the parents are the most influential in the students’ academic success. Parents are strongly encouraged to give 10 hours of their time to volunteer at the school.

“Parent involvement is absolutely important,” said Herring. “We could not do what we do without them. They plan activities like the Mileage Club, which allows kids to run and get physically fit, auctions and field trips.”

St. Martha School was founded in the fall of 1998 and since then, has produced hundreds of bright students. Currently, the school, which goes from Pre-School to eighth grade, has 165 students enrolled.

While Catholicism is taught, St. Martha is open to all students, regardless of religious denominations.

“The number of students who are non-Catholic is something under 10 percent,” said Herring. “That’s kind of surprising, but I think it’s because of the high tax-base around here and plus, the public schools here are really good.”

However, parents choose to send their children to Catholic/faith-based schools because they offer something the public schools lack, according to Danielle Casavant, President and CEO of the Greater Lansing Catholic Education Foundation.

“It’s a very personable decision why parents send their kids to faith-based schools over public schools,” said Casavant. “But the way these schools are structured is appealing to parents.”

The Greater Lansing Catholic Education Foundation is a non-profit organization that financially supports students who attend the 15 Catholic Schools within the Lansing area, including St. Martha.

“Our purpose is to provide need-based money for students and their tuition,” said Casavant. “The money comes from private fundraisers from private donors.”

Like the other schools in the organization, St. Martha’s uses Catholic ideologies and teachings in the school curriculum, not just in the religion classes. The school offers fine arts programs, including a Drama Club for the middle school students, cultural studies, and Spanish classes among other things.

Majority of the students who complete the eighth grade, go to other Catholic schools, especially Catholic Central in Lansing.

“Very few go on to public schools once in high school,” said Herring. “Most go to Lansing Catholic.”

Yet, until they reach those high school years, Herring and the rest of St. Martha’s staff is focused on developing students’ minds now.

“Our school has been extremely successful because of the faith-based curriculum,” said Herring. “We’re exposing children to Catholic values and traditions, teaching morality and that’s what most parents want for their kids.”