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February 03, 1974 - Image 3

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1974-02-03

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contributing editors:
laura berman
howie brick


books- page 4
ali vs. frazier--page 5
looking back-page 6

Number 15 Page Three

February 3, 1974


Rifles, dope and cream cheese:


wonders of the police property room

Bruce Williams has the job that
would make Monte Hall green with
envy. As head of the police depart-
ment's property division, Williams
presides over a virtual kingdom of
boxes, crates and barrels filled with
mysterious merchandise.
Like the great bargain - master of
"set's Make a Deal" fame, Williams'
outfit carries an amazing assortment
of goods ranging from staples like
color televisions to 29 cent bars of
cream cheese.
Williams, however, is not supplied
by the Spiegel Catalog Chicago, Illi-
nois. Instead he depends upon the
city's men in blue to stock his myriad
shelves and cubbyholes.
And stock it they do, to the tune of
several hundred thousand dollars
worth of goods last year alone. Most
of it is stolen property that has been
recovered by the police and is await-
ing use as evidence in upcoming
"There probably isn't anything we
haven't had in this place at one time
or another," says Williams, and a
quick look around the room confirms
the patrolman's observation.
There are 12 television sets stolen
from the Lamp Post Motel, half a
dozen rifles lifted from the ROTC
building, a murder victim's blood-
soaked jeans, a taped confession
("you don't see many of these any-
more"), a freezer full of shoplifted
meat and three live frogs.
How did the police recover three
stolen frogs?
"Would you believe on a phone tip-
off? laughs Williams.
The presence of numerous stereos
and bicycles suggests the heavy in-
fluence of the student community on
the city's rip-off market. Bicycles are
far and away the most popular item
in Williams' showcase. They fill up
an entire room ,in the police garage.

THE JOB OF the property staff is to
protect evidence and eventually
return stolen property to the right-
ful owners.
Though it sounds simple enough,
there are a number of occupational
hazards that can make life difficult
for Williams and his colleagues.
As Williams explains, a single piece
of missing property constitutes suf-

and police officers are also required
to drop the key into the drawer.
Only Williams has a duplicate of
the key, and so if something turns up
missing the department knows exact-
ly where to look.
Captured narcotics require even
stricter security precautions. New
York City police learned this lesson
the hard way when the heroin seized

There are 12 television sets, half a dozen
rifles, a murder .victims blood-soaked jeans,
a freezer full of shoplifted m e a t and three
live frogs,
How did t h e police recover three stolen
"Would you believe on a phone tip-off?"
laughs Williams,
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quor merit much the same treat-
ment. Weapons used in the commis-
sion of crimes are sent to the state
police where they are melted down.
Alcohol, obtained largely in shoplift-
ing cases, is poured down the drain
under the watchful eye of an official
from the state Liquor Control Com-
After a piece of evidence is no long-
er required, it is returned to its origi-
nal owner. Generally this takes a
matter of months, but there are ex-
If, for ekample, a suspect skips
town before his trial and drops out
of sight, the police must hang on to
all related evidence for an indefinite
period of time. Some items in the
property room have been around for
10 years-a long time to wait for
your favorite TV set.
Problems may also arise in deter-
mining the rightful owner of a given
piece of property-especially when
no serial number or bill of sale can
be produced.
"If a guy comes in here and tells
me he lost a Zenith color TV, there's
no way I can give it to him" Wil-
liams explains. "I could get 50 peo-
ple to say they owned the same TV.
But if he says my little Jonny smash-
ed it with a hammer and made a big
white mark across the side,' that's
good enough for me."
WILLIAMS IS PROUD of his staff's
record in returning property. Of
1200 bicycles recovered last year,
some 900 were returned. The percent-
age for stereos and TVs was even
Property that for one reason or an-
other is not claimed is auctioned off
to the public at regular intervals. The
only exceptions are items that have
been found by citizens and turned
over to the police in the hope that
the rightful owner can be found. And
after a six-month period, such items
become the property of the people

ficient grounds for getting a case
thrown out of court.
In addition, police must -be able to
account for all property from the
time it is obtained until it is present-
ed as evidence in court. Failure to.
do so can also result in dismissal on
a technicality.
To deal with this problem, the po-
lice have devised a tight security sys-
tem which puts the bulk of responsi-
bility squarely on the shoulders of
Bruce Williams.
"If anything goes wrong with evi-
dence, I know I'm through," he re-
marks bluntly.
Williams protects himself by keep-
ing accurate records of the times evi-
dence is checked in and out - even
if it is only for a brief transfer to
the crime lab.
EVIDENCE BROUGHT in during the
night is dropped in large draw-
ers in front of the property office

in the famous French Connection
case was stolen from one of their
property rooms.
The thieves made off with heroin
worth an estimated $12 million, and
in its place left several bags full of
powdered milk with an estimated
street value of $1.63.
Ann Arbor police have a special
room where they keep narcotics and
Williams has the only key to its door.
Inside are a number of small green
barrels filled with narcotics, each
bearing the name of a particular po-
lice detective.
The barrels are securely locked and
only the individual officer has the
key for his barrel.
Accordingly, it takes a minimum of
two people to reach any of the nar-
cotics-a built in system of checks
and balances.
"We don't have any French Con-
nections here," Williams says confi-

who found them.
"Very few people realize we oper-
ate that way" Williams ventures.
"They tend to think of us as boge-y-

likes the work he does and speaks
about his accomplisnments with
And he give no indication that he
is contemplating a move in the near
future. So eat your heart out, Monte

Though the
ten get him

hassles of the job of-
down, Bruce Williams

The politics of-

-liquor licensing

bor. People are out on the street
drifting, looking for some action,
There are a lot of little restaurants
around campus that cater to this
crowd. They all get by on a lumpen-
prole combination of pizza, football
and cheap entrees-all directed to the
student munchie crowd. They're all
about the same price, quality of the
food, atmosphere. And none of them,
until quite recently, served liquor.
But today things have changed.
With the lowering of the drinking
age in Michigan back in January
1972, the possession of a liquor li-
cense has become worth its weight in
The arrival of the 1970 census data
in 1972 showed an increase in popu-
lation warranting the addition of ten
licenses for the next ten years. The
city is permitted one liquor license
for every 1500 residents, and the
number of licenses the city could is-
suejumped from 57 to 67.
Obviously competition for the pri-
vilege of peddling booze is keen, and
made more so by the ease in meeting
the application requirements. Just
meeting the requirements does not
guarantee getting a license, but it
does provide resourceful entrepeneurs
with an easy access to this fast buck
There are bound to be losers in
this liquor license lottery.

being squeezed out of business by not
having a liquor license.
Nick and George aren't like the out
of town executives who run the
flashy new establishments like Bicy-
cle Jim's. They have no fancy subur-
ban office. The interview is con-
ducted at a back table in the Cottage
"I'm a business," George explained,
"I try to make money. If you're not
making money you're losing money.
I'm not losing any money, but I'm
not making any either. You under-
stand? I pay my taxes, I own the
property, I've never had any prob-
lems. Why can't I get a license?
Where's the justice?"
"A liquor license would help my
night business 100 per cent. Before
on a Saturday night we used to have
people lined up outside waiting to
get in. Now ..."
getting a license is straight out
of a high school civics text, but It
reveals very little about what sub-
jective criteria applications are de-
cided upon.
To start with, a potential licensee
simply writes a letter to the Michi-
gan Liquor Control Commission stat-
ing a desire to obtain a liquor license.
Applicants need not have a specific
location, title to property, or any con-
crete plans. Just a desire to get in on
a good deal.
After the state receives the appli-
cations it simply relays the names of

Current plans are for a restaurant
called the Starboard Tack to be op-
ened out by the Research Park near
North campus. Another place which
got Council approval is a combina-
tion hotel and restaurant called
Earl's to be opened in October. Fin-
ally a student bar is slated for
Church Street in the basement of
the Campus Arcade.
(IAROL JONES, WHO sat on this
year's Liquor Commission for the
city, explained how the committee de-
cided who should get the favored
positions. "Each case was decided on
individual merit."
Jones said that the Earl Hotel was
okayed because it would help revita-
lize the downtown area. The Star-
board Tack will be located in an area
where there is no other liquor li-
cense nearby, making it easier for
corporate types to go out and drink
their lunches. The student bar at the
Campus Arcade was a concession.
Carol related what she looks for in
an application. "I want to see va-
riety, especially in the campus area.
There's a need for a dancing place,
where you can go out and boogie, and
there's a need for a place to go and
just socialize."
Jones said she, "was fairly typical
of people who like to go out and
drink once in a while. Sometimes I
go out with the express intention of
getting drunk, and there's a need
for that kind of place, too."
ni.a11ci"Crwhy I(7 ~1 tike the+ 00t_

mission in the past. Talk of shady
deals comes and goes, but definite
proof is hard to come by. Certainly
those involved -have a stake in pre-
serving the secrecy of their collusive
Jones said that this year's dealings
were "very clean".
"In' all the time I've been on City
Council, nobody has ever approach-
ed me with a bribe and it makes me
realize how little real power I have."
THE RUMORS OF possible collu-
sion in obtaining liquor licenses
are lent credence by the reluctance of
licensees to talk about how they came
by their licenses. When asked about .
the subject of liquor licenses the
Brown Jug refused to make any com-
ment at all. The manager at Bicycle
Jim's said the owner was the only
person who would talk about their
license. Oddly, the owner wasn't in
his office for two consecutive weeks.
The future looks bleak for the stu-
dent drinkers. City Council and the
Liquor Commission have never en-
joyed the reputation of being espe-
cially responsive to student wishes.
The Liquor Commission will prob-
ably continue to be composed of two
conservative Republican types, intent
on insuring that suburbanites have
a place close to home to get sloshed
at. Probably one seat will be thrown
to the liberals or the students.
Nor does the future for the small
time restaurant owners in Ann Arbor
look any brighter. New quick food op-

serve on the Commission for a year
at a time and may be reappointed.
The Liquor Commission then makes
its recommendations to City Coun-
cil, which rubber stamps the commis-
sion's decisions. Now final state ap-
proval is sought, but this too is mere-
ly a formality.

This year Council awarded licenses
to three more places, leaving a total
of five for the next eight years. None
of the three places which got approv-
al for a license this year are in opera-
tion yet, although all could be ready
within six months of final approval
of their licenses.

Rumors have always surrounded the opera-
tions of the Liquor Commission in the past. Talk
of shady deals comes and goes, but definite proof,

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