Salted with Sharks

M-168: Life on the Straightaway

In Crime on August 12, 2011 at 2:28 am

In her hometown of Hartland, MI, Michele Cannaert got used to the sound of squealing tires. “It was the same as here,” she said, referring to the conjunction of M-22 and M-168. “Three corners. You’d hear the squeal and then wait to hear the crash.”

At about 2 a.m. on Wednesday, Michele heard the sound of tires skidding, followed by the anticipated boom, but when she looked out her window above the Conundrum Café, all was dark, with no vehicles, or anything really, in sight. “I thought maybe someone hit a deer and then drove off again.”

The Alert contacted Sheriff Rory Heckmann midday on Thursday to check on the police report. The sheriff said a young man was arrested after the incident and charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of an accident. At least one passenger was in the vehicle. The young man spent the rest of Wednesday night in jail and left after posting bond on Thursday. His name will be released once the prosecutor issues the warrant. No injuries were reported. The sheriff said his department had come to the scene in response to two phone calls about the accident.

Neither of those calls was from Michele. “I had just called them earlier that night about a kid who was sitting on the plaza blasting his iPod—he didn’t have the earphones on and I could hear this loud music all the way in the back of my building. I thought about calling about the crash sound, but, two calls in one day… and I couldn’t even see anything out there! I didn’t want the sheriff’s office to write me off as a crazy lady.” Michele has called the sheriff on at least one other recent occasion, when some kids were standing on the corner screaming at cars late at night. In the Wednesday night iPod fracas, she told the kid to go home, saying there was a curfew and that if he didn’t leave she was calling the police. She said he submitted a few editorial comments and eventually sauntered off.

The Alert called the Village Office to see if we do indeed have a curfew. “Let’s see…,” said Sharyn Bower. “Well, we have ‘Do not engage in fortune-telling … no peeping in windows … no prostitution…’ Here it is: ‘No minor child of age 15 or less shall loiter in streets, alleys, etc. between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am unless accompanied an adult over 18 years of age.’ ” So it’s true, officially, we have a curfew. The above set of amendments to the Village ordinance was passed on August 18, 1978—hereafter to be known as the day the ’70s died in Elberta. No fortune-telling?

At about 2:20, Michele, who had decided not to call the police, heard a commotion and some yelling from outside. She went back to the window and saw that a police vehicle was parked at the corner of Sheridan and 168 by the stop sign, and she saw what appeared to be a piece of white cloth in the middle of the road. At this point a sheriff’s department vehicle and a Frankfort police vehicle were also arriving on the scene. Michele heard the first-arrived police officer tell the others that she, the police officer, had attempted to apprehend a suspect and he had told her to “f— off” and took off running south along 22. The other officers got in their separate vehicles and proceeded to shine searchlights around the bike trailhead and down into the marina park; then both cruisers took off “lickety split,” said Michele, south on 22. At this point there was still nothing to be seen except the police officers, their vehicles, and that piece of white cloth.

At about 3:10, Michele said, she heard the beep-beep of the tow truck. The first officer was still there, and was now joined by an older man and woman and their vehicle. Eventually, up from the depths of shrubs, mud, and cattails came what looked like a Ford Taurus sedan, its rocker panel quite banged up. Michele noticed that a young man was seated in one side of the patrol car; then she watched as a young woman got out of the patrol car and joined the older woman and left with her in that couple’s vehicle. Michele said she then saw the officer go down into the ditch and come back with several large liquor bottles. After a good 45 minutes, the tow was complete, it was nearly 4 a.m., everyone had gone, and Michele herself finally went to sleep.

As for the piece of cloth in the street, Michele says her neighbor said he saw the officer grab at yet another young man, the one who allegedly took off running down 22, and his shirt tore right in half.

Looking at the skidmarks now, Michele would say the car probably was coming from south on 22 when it hit the curb and went into the ditch, but at the time she wondered if it could have been coming from Frankfort and overcompensated on the turn. Whatever the case, it was going way too fast.

Tiremarks visible at the scene, the day after a car was ditched by the Farmers Market Park, August 11.

*     *     *     *    *

It’s hard to go 25 miles per hour on 168, even when you’re sober. I tried it today. For one thing, it’s a straightaway. There’s just something about a long straight flat road with not much on it that not only distorts your perception of speed but makes you actually not give a darn how fast you’re going. Furthermore, if you’re on 168, you’re usually trying to get to or from the beach or a choice drinking establishment, and you know how either of those factors can cloud your judgment. But 25 miles per hour is indeed the speed limit—all the way down. And several residents at the north/west end of Furnace Avenue are concerned about the amount of speeding going on.

Really, the speed limit on 168 is 25 miles per hour!

The cluster of houses at that end, many of them steeped in history from the time when the Ann Arbor Railroad literally ruled the road, is home to many children, several of whom can be seen enjoying the new MDOT sidewalks on their bikes and and skateboards. It’s a very quiet road most of the time, with little other pedestrian activity; no commerce, no roadside parking—unless you live there, there’s no real reason to be there. Unless you’re passing through, driving at top speed on your way to the beach or Waterfront Park.

A very peaceful street—most of the time.

The mentality (or lack thereof) behind the estimated 50 to 60 mile per hour speeds sometimes clocked by worried and angry residents is somewhat understandable. What is unconscionable is the deliberate crapstankiness perpetrated by some drivers, who according to Furnace Avenue residents have removed signage residents set out to remind people to slow down, including signage pointing out the presence of children in the area.

Times are tough, and the sheriff’s department, our only law enforcement, has faced a lot of budget cuts. Michele Cannaert was impressed by how quickly the police made the scene of the ditch accident on Wednesday—within 10 minutes, she said. It would be great if we had regular patrol on 168 and the beach area, to help us citizens uphold our democratically made decisions (no fortune-telling, we agreed at one point!), but we don’t have that. So we must police ourselves, and remind those who come to enjoy our Village that we live here 24/7. And we’ll hope that it doesn’t take an accident with injuries or worse for people to slow down.—Emily Votruba

  1. While the topic of speeding and such problems is definitely worth writing and reading about, reading all about what Michelle said was akin to watching Little House on the Prairie with a report by Mrs. Olsen! And now all of those “rowdy” teenagers know right where she lives, not sure how wise that was!

  2. But that is the fun of small town America…where every one knows your name…and where you live…I love this little town and I am proud to have people know where I live.

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