By Sara Konkel
Meridian Times staff writer
In a township full of working professionals, higher-priced housing and a devoted police force, Meridian Township resident Kathy Harrison said that the issue of safety is never a concern in her community.
Harrison and her family have been living in the township for 21 years and have never faced a major problem with safety.“People appreciate living in Meridian Township because it’s a safe place,” Meridian Township Police Chief David Hall said. “It’s a nice community and has a lot of things going on, like a great park system, great shopping, great places to eat and it’s close by all the action. It’s close by Lansing and Michigan State University and I think that’s a draw for people.”
Harrison said she feels so comfortable in the township that she allows her 13-year-old son, Noel, to bike to friends’ houses and walk home from school every day.
Meridian Township was recognized in a SafeWise Report released in March as one of the “50 Safest Cities in Michigan.” The annual report comes out for every state, highlighting the safest places to live based on FBI crime statistics.
In comparison with Muskegon and Saginaw Township, which have similar populations to Meridian Township, Meridian has lower violent crime and property crime rates in 2010.
While Meridian Township had 83 violent crimes, Saginaw Township had 87 and Muskegon had 371.
Meridian Township had 922 property crimes in 2010, whereas Saginaw Township had 1,026 and Muskegon had 2,234.
The SafeWise Report ranked New Baltimore the safest city in Michigan. Police Chief Tim Wiley said the department’s main focus is set on being proactive.
”We want to get out there and determine what it is that is causing the types of crime in the community and go after them before they’re issues so we can prevent having those calls of service,” Wiley said.
Harrison said police and community member involvement play a major role in keeping Meridian Township safe.
The township provides six adult crossing guards to ensure the safety of the children, Hall said.
The police constantly reach out to the community with different programs to promote safety in the community such as the Neighborhood Watch, D.A.R.E. and a new Community Information Service to alert residents of the latest information, Harrison said.
When her identity was stolen several years ago, she reported the incident to the police and they immediately showed up at her house, interviewed her and walked her through the process of protecting her information.
Neighbors were shocked to see a Meridian Township Police car in their subdivision.
“The police car was in the driveway and everyone in the neighborhood was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what happened? Why is there police at the Harrisons’?’ because normally you wouldn’t expect something like that in our quiet and small little township,” Harrison said.
Despite the confidence residents have in the safety of the township, serious crime still occurs.
In March, an armed bank robbery occurred at the PNC bank in Meridian Township. Police responded promptly but considered the residents’ safety throughout the search for the suspect, Hall said.
“Relatively soon after the suspect left the bank we had him in our sight,” Hall said. “If it would’ve been in a neighborhood or near a school, or the person was out on foot, we would’ve asked the schools to go into lockdown.”
For Meridian Township resident David Harris, the bank robbery was a shock.
“I was in awe when I heard about it,” he said. “You just don’t expect things like that to happen around here.”
Harris said the incident was nothing more than a “freak event” and didn’t put other residents’ safety in jeopardy.
Hall said the Meridian Township Police focuses on maintaining frequent interaction with the community to ensure safety.
Meridian resident Kaitlyn Kuntsman said she goes for a jog down Marsh Road every evening at dusk and has never questioned her safety.
“I’ve lived here long enough to know nothing’s going to happen,” Kuntsman said. “I’ve never even heard of anything bad happening. It’s one of the safest places I’ve ever been.”
Meridian Township Treasurer Julie Brixie said the amenities the township provides for the residents help to make it a very comfortable place to call home.
“This is a terrific community to locate in,” Brixie said. “We have a lot of high quality-of-life amenities here. We have tons of parks, we have over 700 acres of land permanently preserved, we have over 70 miles of bike lanes and we have four top-notch school districts and all of those things really make Meridian Township an attractive place to live and to do business.”
Hall said the residents appreciate living in a place where they can feel comfortable in their surroundings.
“It’s a very desirable place to live,” he said.