By Charles Sercombe
As if on cue, just as Hamtramck police officials were coming back with good news about the city’s auto theft prevention unit, police officers here apprehended two suspected carjackers.
Talk about timing.
“It underscores the need for the auto theft unit,” said Police Chief Mark Kalinowski.
As of August, there was a real possibility that Hamtramck would lose its two-man auto theft unit. City Manager Bill Cooper was saying at the time that the city could no longer afford to kick in its half of the cost for salaries.
The auto theft investigators are paid through a matching grant from the state’s insurance companies. Basically the deal is 50-50. Cooper said in August, that since the city was facing a $3.3 million deficit, he couldn’t spare the $80,000 it takes to fund the two investigators.
In the meantime, Cooper and others were trying to find a way to increase the state’s funding or perhaps get 100 percent funding for at least one investigator. As the weeks went by, it became apparent that the city might face losing the entire grant.
So, Cooper researched the matter and found out that the city can receive money from unclaimed stolen cars that are sold. The city can also claim cash and tools that are confiscated from chop shops that are either busted in Hamtramck, or are located outside the city but have a Hamtramck theft connection.
Cooper said it’s likely the city will be able to recoup the $80,000 that goes to the investigators’ salaries.
The issue of stolen vehicles is no small matter in Hamtramck. In 2009, there were 361 vehicles stolen.
Chief Kalinowski said the number of cases handled by the investigators is much higher when you consider all the vehicle-related crimes, which includes larcenies from vehicles and other smaller crimes.
He said the two-man unit is assigned about 1,000 cases per year. When you consider that the police department has only four detectives, Kalinowski said there is no way the detective bureau could handle vehicle thefts if the auto unit was disbanded.
And in another twist to this story, the two auto theft investigators, Greg Collins and Glenn Kay, were recently named investigators of the year. Kay has since retired from the department.
Chief Kalinowski said although things looked dire for the unit, a lot of behind-the-scenes work was being done by a number of folks to save the funding for the unit, most notably City Councilmember Cathie Gordon, City Manager Bill Cooper and especially State Rep. Bert Johnson.
“It was a concerted effort,” Kalinowski said.