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MI sheriff’s office cutting in-person 911 responses over soaring gas prices

A gas station. (MaxPixel/Released)
June 10, 2022

Soaring gas prices have forced a Michigan sheriff’s department to limit in-person responses to 911 because the department has already blown through its budget for fuel.

“I have instructed the deputies to attempt to manage whatever calls are acceptable over the phone,” Isabella County Sheriff Michael Main said, according to News 8. “This would be non-in-progress calls, non-life-threatening calls, calls that do not require evidence collection or documentation.”

The Isabella County Sheriff’s Office, located 80 miles northeast of Grand Rapids, was forced to make the change as gas prices reached record highs, skyrocketing to a record-breaking national average of $5 a gallon.

“We have exhausted what funds were budgeted for fuel with several months to go before the budget reset,” the sheriff’s office said.

Main said deputies will still respond to calls in person if they need it.

“I want to assure the community that safety is our primary goal, and we will continue to respond to those types of calls,” Main said.

County Administrator Nicole Frost confirmed to the Detroit Free Press that the sheriff’s office has already spent 96 percent of its fuel budget with over three months still left in fiscal year 2022.

“There’s been a lot of communication on this issue,” she explained. “I’ve already been approached by commissioners who are concerned to the level of: ‘Do we need to meet about a budget before the next regularly scheduled meeting?’ “

The nearby Kent County Sheriff’s Office told News 8 that while it does not plan to adjust protocols, the “pain at the fuel pump” is real.

“Pain at the fuel pump is affecting every person and every operation,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement. “The KCSO has implemented many strategies over the years designed to reduce the need to send a deputy in person. We continue to strive to provide proficient, timely, and effective service.”

Elsewhere, Michigan State Police said in a statement that while “gas prices have not caused operational changes,” the department anticipates needing an extra $2.8 million to cover fuel costs.

Allegan County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Bretton Ensfield said his department is urging officers not to idle their cars and to avoid making long trips.  

“Instead of having a deputy drive 20 miles to go take that complaint, the complaint may have to wait 10 to 15 minutes or so to have the closer car take the complaint, rather than have someone else driving to take the complaint,” Ensfield told WGHN radio, as reported by Newsweek.

Patrick De Haan, the head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, an app that tracks gas prices nationwide, said in a statement, “It’s been one kink after another this year, and worst of all, demand doesn’t seem to be responding to the surge in gas prices, meaning there is a high probability that prices could go even higher in the weeks ahead.”

“It’s a perfect storm of factors all aligning to create a rare environment of rapid price hikes,” he added. “The situation could become even worse should there be any unexpected issues at the nation’s refineries or a major hurricane that impacts oil production or refineries this summer.”