Agreement places local police officer back on Strike Investigate Narcotics Team
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
After a seven-year absence, a local police officer is back on the local undercover drug enforcement team to combat the opioid epidemic and stem the flow of illicit drugs coming into the area.
Crawford County Sheriff Shawn M. Kraycs said the City of Grayling and Crawford County have entered into an agreement to add a drug enforcement officer back to the local drug enforcement team called the Strike Team Investigative Narcotics Group (STING) unit.
STING covers Arenac, Crawford, Iosco, Ogemaw, Oscoda, and Roscommon counties.
Kraycs said the agreement is in place and the officer is already working on the team.
The Grayling Department of Public Safety and the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office will split the cost with some additional funds coming from each township in the county.
“Every township puts in so much money per capita so they all have a little bit of a say,” Kraycs said.
Several factors led to being able to put a local officer back on the team.
First, Crawford County voters approved a 0.8917 mill renewal, which is equal to $0.8917 per $1,000 of taxable value, that will be levied for a period of four years, 2020 through 2023 at the November general election polls last year. The millage generates $499,634 per year.
The purpose of the millage is to pay for police protection services provided through the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, including 24-hour road patrol, and sheriff’s office staffing and equipment.
Voters also gave a thumbs up for an added 0.1083 mills, which is equal to $0.1083 per $1,000 of taxable value, for a period of six years, 2018 through 2023. The millage generates $60,682 per year.
Next, a number of deputies and commanders at the sheriff’s office have retired. They have since been replaced by younger officers, who earn a lower salary and receive less costly fringe benefits.
“They have defined contribution rather than defined benefits so it’s a different type of retirement system that reduces costs,” Kraycs said.
The cost to fund the officer is $100,000.
Grayling City Manager and Department of Public Safety Chief Doug Baum said funds from the city are coming from its general fund.
Baum added that it is crucial to have someone on the team that can notice activities and people that are out of place that may be dealing or seeking to buy illicit drugs.
“We feel it is extremely important to have somebody on the team, but to also have local representation because when have you local representation they take more ownership in the position and strive to address the drug problem in our area,” Baum said. “The drug problem in our area in very serious.”
Kraycs, who was appointed to serve as the county sheriff last year, is also pleased to return an officer to the team.
“It’s just another person connected to the drug enforcement team that can reach out to work on getting the drugs off the streets as much as we can,” he said. “I’m happy to be part of it again.”
Kraycs hopes the interlocal agreement will be in place for a long time so officers from each agency can serve on the team and receive enhanced training.
“It will probably be for 24 months or 36 months and we’ll look at swapping him out,” he said.
Illegal opioids continue to be a problem in the area along with some methamphetamine and cocaine coming in from downstate drug peddlers.
“It’s bad enough that we need to be diligent and have a member on this team for sure, so that we have direct access to them,” Kraycs said.
Officers on the team are trained to do surveillance to look out for drug traffickers and to work on more complex law enforcement cases.
Kraycs feels that it is important to have his deputies take on specialty tasks such as working as a school liaison officer, serving on the emergency response team and on the dive team.
“The part that I like is to send an officer there to add to their tool box and their diversity of knowledge,” Kraycs said. “The young officers are the future of this department, so if they get that get experience in all the different areas of law enforcement, that’s just going to make them that much better of a leader later in their career. It’s better for the community because we can provide them a wider knowledge of how to apply the law and how to do their job as a police officer.”
Members on the team come from the Michigan State Police, Oscoda County and Roscommon County.
Detective Sgt. Ryan Swope from the Crawford County Sheriff’s Officer was the last deputy to serve on the drug enforcement team before he was pulled in October 2012.
At the time, former Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield had to choose to have a member on the team or maintaining a school liaison officer. He choose to fund the officer to serve as a mentor to youth in the schools and to keep them safe.
Swope said he is pleased someone if following in his footsteps as well as other deputies who have served on the team, but will out of sight to most people.
“It’s a very, very important position. It’s a position that is in the shadows, and people don’t see, but there is a world out there that the vast majority of people don’t realize is going on,” he said. “That position allows us to have someone working hand-in-hand with that group of people and trying to make our community a better place.”