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Some Detroiters complain about how Belle Isle is policed

Detroit News Staff
Walter P. Reuther Library
Rum-runners bring alcohol across the frozen Detroit River in sleds in 1930.

In the 1920's, Belle Isle was a secret port for smuggling alcohol into the U.S. from Canada. The island was teeming with mobsters on little motor boats who brought liquor over by the jug-full. 

Now that Belle Isle is a state park, alcohol is back to being outlawed, and the place is being patrolled by state police and the Department of Natural Resources.

Many Detroiters have complained that the police are unfairly targeting drivers on the island.

According to Joe Guillen of the Detroit Free Press, since becoming a state park earlier this year there have been about 500 arrests. Among those who were pulled over were Detroit's city clerk, and even the city's mayor Mike Duggan. 

Tuesday, Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones made a statement about the climbing number of arrests. 

"It's a disgrace," Jones said at today's council meeting. "I will be calling the state myself."

Though the Department of Natural Resources says it has tried to maintain some of the island’s old rules, such as the opening and closing hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., drivers may be pulled over if they are unaware of newer changes.

For example, if a driver does not have the new mandated $11 recreation passport, they may be pulled over and asked to leave. A full list of the DNR’s rules is available here

A spokesman for the Michigan State Police details the number of stops on record on the island. 

Since Feb. 1, state police have made 55 arrests on the island and 329 traffic stops, Shaw said. The arrests include drivers with a suspended license who are ticketed and released at the scene. Also police have issues 293 verbal warnings, Shaw said, adding the statistics to not cover the activities of the Department of Natural Resources which also patrols Belle Isle.

Shaw said they enforced the islands laws equally, and that the state police hope that their patrol will make Belle Isle a family friendly environment. 

With summer quickly approaching, many wonder what park activities will look like under the state's new rules. 

- Paige Pfleger, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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