BY MELANIE YOUNG
The Grosse Ile Police Department will be honored for the successful Party Patrol initiative, which was created 17 years ago by one of its officers.
The department will receive the award from the National Association of Women Highway Safety Leaders, an organization that works nationwide to prevent and reduce deaths and injuries on our nation’s highways.
The Party Patrol, used by police agencies throughout Michigan and the Midwest, was the brain child of Grosse Ile Police Sergeant Kenneth Pelland. Grosse Ile Police Chief Joseph Porcarelli said the initiative fills a void, as prior to this program, nothing would stop large, out of control parties, especially if the officers were busy with other matters.
“This proactive enforcement targets key times throughout the school year, such as prom, homecoming and graduation,” he said.
The Patrol consists of four to five officers from various cities in the Downriver area. They travel in unmarked vehicles and observe known problem areas and hotels that are known to allow parties with people younger than 21. They can also respond to calls from local jurisdictions if a party is out of hand.
Porcarelli noted that because the patrol includes members of the Wayne County Sherriff’s office and Michigan State Police, the group can enforce the law in any city in the county or state, and have the same jurisdictional rights as an officer employed by that city.
The Party Patrol is completely funded by a federal grant that Sgt. Pelland applied for. Pelland continues to oversee and work in the program today. While Pelland manages the officers in the program, local police departments choose the officers who participate.
When asked if the program has made a difference, Porcarelli was positive.
“We believe it’s making a huge impact,” he said. He said there has been a noticeable difference in house parties in the past several years. He attributes that to several reasons, including the fear of getting caught and the education about the laws.
Porcarelli said some parents are not happy about the initiative though. He has received many complaints from parents upset that their child received a ticket.
“Some parents don’t look at teenage drinking as a serious matter,” he said.
He disagrees with these parents and cited CDC statistics stating that 4,300 deaths a year are due to underage drinking, and more than 180,000 emergency room visits each year are related to underage drinking.
Porcarelli thinks that, overall, the program is saving lives, although there are no formal statistics.
“When there are less parties, there is less chance of someone overdosing on alcohol. They know we’re out there. They know we are watching.”
The award will be presented on Monday, June 5, at Grosse Ile Police Department headquarters.