Allegan sheriff, other Michigan police cutting back in-person responses due to gas prices

An Allegan County Sheriff's Office cruiser.

As gas prices across the state continue to reach record highs, it's not just individuals who are feeling the financial strain at the pump. 

Organizations like police agencies use a large amount of fuel to keep their officers and deputies on the road. Unexpectedly high gas prices can quickly become a problem for police department budgets, especially those that don't have much wiggle room.

The Allegan County Sheriff's Office's Lt. Brent Ensfield told WZZM-13 the department is making some changes to help save on fuel. 

An Allegan County Sheriff's Office cruiser.

“We're having officers take a proactive approach to not having the cars idle or if they can shut the vehicles off or if they don't need to make any unnecessary trips, administrative-type things,” Ensfield said. “We try to combine them and do it in all one trip.” 

Police agencies, even small ones, run hundreds of thousands of miles each year to respond to public safety concerns. For emergencies and major calls, there is no shift in the service provided by the Allegan County Sheriff's Office. But a 911 call about something non-urgent might be handled a little differently for the time being.

More:Michigan gas prices skyrocket in ‘unprecedented' ongoing rise

More:Michigan gas prices skyrocket in ‘unprecedented' ongoing rise

If there's no safety issue or evidence needing to be collected related to a call, a deputy may call the person back to get more information rather than driving out to meet them. 

“Instead of having a deputy drive 20 miles or go take that complaint, the complaint may have to wait 10 or 15 minutes to have a closer car take the complaint rather than have someone else driving to take the complaint,” Ensfield told WZZM-13. 

Michigan gas prices rose again over the past week.

So far, the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office hasn't had to make any protocol changes yet, but Allegan County isn't the only agency in the state reacting to the high gas prices. 

Isabella County's sheriff's office, serving the Mt. Pleasant area, is also making changes to account for fuel costs. 

They told the Detroit Free Press the agency has “exhausted what funds were budgeted” for gasoline with “several months to go before the budget reset.”

Like Allegan County, Isabella County deputies will be handling non-urgent calls by phone for now.

AAA, which tracks prices at more than 85,000 stations nationwide, said Michigan had the highest average weekly gas price surge of all states.

Average gas prices in the state have been going up weekly — and even daily. They were $5.21 a gallon on Tuesday, up from 5.17 the day before and $4.70 just a week ago. A year ago, gas prices were $3.01 a gallon, a whopping 73 percent increase.

Some analysts have forecasted that gas prices could reach $6 a gallon — or more — nationally by the end of summer.

— Frank Witsil of The Detroit Free Press contributed to this report. 

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