Keeping Lowell Safe: Police Beat for July 2020

With the state under a stay-at-home order for much of the spring, crime rates in Lowell were significantly lower during the first half of 2020 as compared to 2019. Last year, the Lowell Police Department had made 105 arrests through the end of July, but in 2020, that number dropped to 54. Drunk driving, drug law violations, larcenies and accidents all saw decreases as well.

“The one thing that is up is verbal domestics,” says Police Chief Chris Hurst. He suspects that may have to do with people being stuck at home for an extended period, and he notes alcohol often plays a role in these cases.

As of the end of July 2020, the department had responded to 32 reports of verbal assault and 19 reports of domestic assault for the entire year. At this time last year, those numbers were 24 and 6, respectively. A domestic case can involve any combination of people living together, including siblings, roommates or parents. Verbal cases occur when people have arguments that do not include physical contact while domestic assault refers to instances where contact has been made between the parties.

While those numbers reflect year-to-date cases, the following is an overview of department activity just for July 2020.

April – 192 cases total

  • 28 calls for assistance to citizens
  • 24 calls for assistance to other agencies
  • 11 verbal assault
  • 7 car accidents
  • 7 total arrests
  • 4 disorderly conduct
  • 3 larcenies
  • 3 malicious destruction of property
  • 3 ordinance violations
  • 1 domestic assault

Plus, the department made 129 traffic stops and issued 25 citations in July.

Top Cases: Embezzlement and Breaking and Entering

The Lowell Police Department had two particularly notable cases in July.

First, after a one-year investigation, warrants were issued for a woman suspected of embezzling money from the Moose Lodge. The police were notified last year of some inconstancies in the organization’s bank accounts.

After a lengthy investigation, the police turned over their findings to the prosecutor’s office who issued three felony warrants. The suspect has been arrested.

The other case involved a robbery at the T-Mobile wireless location on W. Main Street. This location was hit by thieves earlier in the summer as well. However, in this instance, workers at the store had a heads up about potential trouble.

“The T-Mobile store actually got a call to lock the door,” Detective Gordy Lauren explains. Employees from a T-Mobile store in Jenison had been robbed earlier in the day and called the Lowell location to advise them to lock their doors.

When the four suspects pulled up at 12:50pm, they found the store locked with employees inside. They proceeded to break the windows to enter the store and rip out displays and take cash from the register.

Thanks to security footage from a neighboring business, the police were able to identify one suspect and worked with the Kent County Sherriff’s Department to trace that person’s whereabouts. A search warrant was issued, and police were able to apprehend the suspect and retrieve all the items stolen from the Lowell location.

In total, it was approximately four hours from the time of the theft to the time of the apprehension. So far, one person has been charged in the crime.

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New Sergeant, Officers at Lowell Police Department

In other news, the Lowell Police Department has a new sergeant. Scot Van Solkema, a longtime officer on the force, was promoted to the position after it became vacant when Chris Hurst assumed the post of Chief of Police.

There were two internal applicants for the position, and Hurst says a panel of individuals including law enforcement officials from outside the department helped make the decision. As part of the review process, each person was asked to share how they would respond in three scenarios: counseling an officer, responding to a multi-car accident and responding to a chemical spill.

“It was a tough decision to make,” Hurst says. However, in the end, Van Solkema was recommended for the position.

The Lowell Police Department also hired another full-time officer, Jason Diaz. Two part-time patrol officers will be added to the force as well, and those women will start in the fall. Meanwhile, the school crossing guard has been rehired now that classes are back in session.

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