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City to Metal-Detecting Sleuths: Be Patient — Or Be Arrested

If you try to rummage about on downtown Rochester construction site, you are trespassing.

Metal detectors at midnight — or any time of day — will not be tolerated.

That's the message Rochester officials want you to hear amid downtown's Main Street Makeover.

City Manager Jaymes Vettraino acknowledged this week that there have been a few instances of curious onlookers with metal detectors in tow scavenging Main Street, presumably in search of some historical treasures.

While city leaders have made no secret that those treasures probably are buried underneath the road, they are also adamant that those relics aren't yours to find and keep.

"Not only is it an issue of safety, but it's also essentially the looting of public property," said Vettraino. 

The road is managed by the state of Michigan, so any items discovered underneath it are property of the state.

Those items will, however, be turned over to the city, which will preserve and catalogue them.

So be patient, Rochester. And leave the detecting to the experts.

For more about the Main Street Makeover, see our guide on Patch.

Richard Stephen Day April 21, 2012 at 06:05 PM
David, I checked with the city police chief and he was sure that there is no law or ordinance against metal detecting the construction area downtown. There is no trespassing law. They said if you are downtown you are OK but if you are downtown with a metal detector you will be charged with trespassing. The State doesn't own anything lost on public property. There job is protect anything of historical significance and that's not at all what people with metal detectors find or are interested in finding.
Chuck Jacob April 21, 2012 at 06:11 PM
"Not only is it an issue of safety, but it's also essentially the looting of public property," said Vettraino. Now, this quote, although short...pretty much sums up Mr. Vettraino's opinion that people who dig in this construction zone with metal detectors are looters. Now...again this property is claimed to be "owned by the state" yet also "public property." The answer is simple...its both. It's owned by the State, but its not "STATE LAND." Its public property, That means that anyone in the public has the right to enjoy and use public property as long as they are responsible and don't cause damage. Metal Detecting in construction zones is highly popular and usually NEVER a problem as long as you choose to go detecting when WORKERS are not present or after their day ends. That way, you are not at risk of getting in the way of any heavy equipment and certainly do not want to get into the way of workers while they are doing their jobs. I have personally done COUNTLESS construction zones in my 10 years of detecting. I have found many old coins and numerous other artifacts. In fact, I have even donated some of these finds to local historic societies, who seemed very interested and thankful. In those 10 years...I've never been asked to leave a construction zone. Never gotten in the way of workers. Never been injured. Also, never been told that I was trespassing. Certainly never been called a "looter."
Chuck Jacob April 21, 2012 at 06:20 PM
The reason being is simple...there are NO LAWS AGAINST doing this! Does Rochester have a law or ordinance against metal detecting public property? Not that I can find. And regardless of what's said...The street should be the same. But it isn't being considered "public property" for a brief moment in time. That time is now and for one certain reason. Someone else WANTS to get whats in the ground. Apparently those people have some high ranking to just change laws overnight and make it where "THEY" can go recover them...but "OTHERS" can't. What's really a shame about this whole thing is that I REALLY wanted to go down there and find some old coins. I would have been willing to turn over any other artifacts that I found to the local historical society or the City of Rochester. Heck...I think it would be AWESOME to see things I found displayed in some museum or city hall. That would be really cool. But doesn't look like that will happen now. Just don't see the harm in digging a few coins that others most likely aren't going to find anyway...its just going to get covered back up.
Chuck Jacob April 21, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Consider this statement in the article..."The road is managed by the state of Michigan, so any items discovered underneath it are property of the state." Please, if only for a moment, consider this analogy because this is exactly how ridiculous this whole scenario is. Some guy in 1890 stumbles out of a local tavern late at night...slips and falls while dropping a few pennies on the ground. He doesn't even know that, gets up off the ground...and continues home. Within a day or two a little dirt is over these coins and they are lost. Is this now "PROPERTY OF THE STATE?" Because this is what most detectorists are looking for. Lost coins. Not buried coins...LOST COINS! So now 100 years later...people can't suddenly look for lost coins on public property. Its ridiculous. Nobody with a metal detector is looking for Native American artifact in Rochester buried 8 feet deep okay, Get realistic, You're talking about people who enjoy a fun recreational hobby and are looking for coins or items of interest that are only a few inches deep. As far as looting goes...its extremely offensive and untrue. Whatever is beneath the streets of Rochester fits into 1 of 2 categories. 1. It was either LOST on accident and nobody knows its even there. Ex. Coins 2, It was buried on purpose because nobody thought it was significant at the time. Basically, people find significance now for #2 and nobody can go and look for #1.
Richard Stephen Day April 21, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Chuck, I have invested $7,000 in metal detecting equipment made in the USA and on a good day detecting I get a senior coffee with cheese burger at Mickey D's. And when I get a chance to go downtown with my grandson and find a chewed up Indian head penny with green crud all over it they fabricate some rule to keep me out. I guess my little garden trowel is more of a threat to the Indian burial ground than the back hoes and excavators are.
mike April 21, 2012 at 07:15 PM
I bet a lot of that stuff is going to be lost or tore up and its better that people with metal detectors search for this stuff, I bet anything that no one cares about you being in danger as much as they make it sound, try searching on Sunday night and they'll still be flipping out.....I say metal detect and have fun
Richard Stephen Day April 21, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Mike you are awesome and should run for city council! You are also right about the sort of items we find. They will be lost forever and I would be more than happy to report everything that I find. I did last year and they ran a story on it in the Lake Orion Review. I also located the trolley tracks.
Jane Hoops April 22, 2012 at 12:27 AM
If someone gets hurt while searching for items within a construction zone, they will surely sue the state of Michigan for their injuries. I am willing to bet on it! I don't want to spend my tax dollars defending that when they should just stay out for their own good!
Richard Stephen Day April 22, 2012 at 12:45 AM
That's a excuse and a overreaction. I have been to at least 2 dozen construction towns and cities over the 32 years that I have been detecting and Rochester just like the rest of them will be encouraging all its citizens to continue using the front entrances to businesses on Main Street even after May 11th when the sidewalks and streets east to west will be missing and a complete construction zone. Site one law suit other than the one I am contemplating for violating my civil liberties.
mike April 22, 2012 at 01:06 AM
I say we all protest this in public. This is our city and our tax money also, I'm not worried that the people who care so much about history and invest thousands of dollars in equipment are out to sue the city or state, I'm worried about people in city government who didn't even think about their citizens the last three years and how to show respect to the citizens who could actually find special things out there and report them. Don't tell me that there's state archeologist on site, That's not true! One guy probably came there for 5 minuits.
chris kaufman April 23, 2012 at 06:28 PM
I think its ridiculous that the govt can do this. After all it is OUR tax money that pays for all this construction and maintenance. So if an otherwise law-abiding tax-paying citizen wants to rescue a few coins that would otherwise remain lost then i say go for it. Whats the harm really? Its not like the city or state is gonna take the time to search for anything and im pretty sure as long as you dont interfere with the construction not many people would look twice at someone swingin a detector over the dirt.
Charlie Harris April 23, 2012 at 06:32 PM
This Rochester Trespassing deal is for the birds, created by the lawyers that evidently don't have anything else to worry about but a few relic hunters lookin for a few lost coins. It's because of these money grubbin lawyers that many sites have been banned to us. Personally, as for myself, if I were to get hurt, I would consider it my own Damn fault, not the fault of the landowner, unless he intentionally set a trap for me to get caught in. Intentionally is a key word that most worried people never consider in these law suits. A number of years ago here in Tennessee we had a similar situation with the archaeologists in Nashville. When it finally went to court the judge told the relic huntes to go home & then proceeded to chew out the archaeologists for destroying history because they did no recoveries after they shut down the relic hunting at that construction site. Charlie Harris
American Digger Magazine April 23, 2012 at 07:14 PM
I'd just like to know who the "experts" are that the detecting should be left to? Nice going, Rochester ...nothing like paving over history so those darned ol' "looters" won't get it. Jeesh.
Joe woods April 23, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Another politician who doesn't know his @#$ from a hole in the ground!
Marty Rosalik April 23, 2012 at 08:18 PM
What about the old paving bricks? Did they just scoop them up and take them to a land fill? Sell them for a buck or a five spot each and use the proceedes for the fireworks fund or charity.
David Gifford April 23, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Marty, the bricks are all being taken to the Rochester DPW yard. They have been gifted back to the city by the state of Michigan to be reused in the downtown makeover.
Tiffany Dziurman Stozicki April 23, 2012 at 09:19 PM
There are in fact three archaeologists that have been reviewing the site as well as the local historical society and the Rochester Historical Commission. As David mentioned, the bricks are being carefully removed and are taken to a nearby water treatment facility where they are cleaned. As stated, they will be returned to the State and thus to the City for reuse and such. The history of this road and what may lie beneath it is quite important to many in this city. No one wants to or is willing to pave over history. The history of this town and road is, in fact, among the most important considerations in Rochester. As a resident and historian, I, too, take great interest in this project as do many, many others in our beautiful city. If you have questions, I encourage you to call the City of Rochester. Many of the comments here are based solely on speculation and assumption.
Phillip Oliver April 23, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Not speculation or assumption. Unless there is going to be a full blown Archaeological dig before the street is repaved then there will be objects that will be paved over and lost forever, that is the facts. So why not just let the hobbyist enjoy their hobby and at least some one will enjoy these items that otherwise will be lost under pavement from now on. Why is it that most Archaeologist would rather something rot away in the ground than God forbid some individual happen to find it and get some enjoyment out of it. It's just ridiculous.
Richard Stephen Day April 24, 2012 at 01:06 AM
If you are downtown with a metal detector you will be arrested but if you are downtown with a pair of hands that can pick up and walk off with the bricks you won't be. Tiffany, I would be more than happy to show you the historical items I have recovered in other towns that were under construction. These will be all the kinds of historical items you will never see found in Rochester. They will be lost forever. No one profits from metal detecting except society which has us treasure hunters out preserving history. Metal detecting is about as profitable as playing golf. It's the search the hunt and discovery and preservation of history we desire.
Ralph Wolfes April 24, 2012 at 01:13 AM
I was downtown today and saw some workers uncovering a very old cistern in front of Gus O'Conners. When I walked by there was several folks from MDOT, a state archaeologist, and a professor from OU. How cool is it that we have something like that in our town?!?! I saw the archaeologist had his hand tools out and everything. Made me feel comfortable that the city and the state have this under control. That's my 2 cents.
Ralph Wolfes April 24, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Also, @ Joe Woods: The politician you are referring to? Are you referring to the City Manager? I don't know him personally, but I do remember the City reaching out to the community and the business owners through various public meetings. Heaven forbid the "politician that doesn't know his @#$ from a hole in the ground" tries to prevent the citizens he was hired to serve, from getting injured or putting themselves in an unsafe situation. I just think its unfair to come down on the city for this. So maybe I added my 10 cents worth?
Richard Sabre April 24, 2012 at 08:51 AM
I have never heard of a detectorist ever taking anyone to court for being injured. I have heard of full fledge archaeologist digs on Indian sights and the finds being locked up in the basement of museums where nobody ever sees them. You do realize that the archaeologist get paid during their digs so that could be the main reason to prevent people from finding anything buried first.
J.S. Digger April 24, 2012 at 11:46 AM
hmmm, has anyone considered a joint detectorist/ city staff "dig" when workers are not on site? This way City staffers can SEE anything dug up , evaluate it if needed historically or just let the detectorist add it to his/her goody bag. Check out what the folks in our hobby AND Archaeologists do TOGETHER in England..they work in unison to save /protect / display artifacts for ALL to enjoy! C'mon folks in Rochester, work together and use this opportunity to try to preserve a wee, small bit of your own history, without the squabbling! Hope something works out to satisfy all parties involved! P.S. I enjoyed the positive remarks made in here, and liked the idea of folks "buying " an old paving stone as a fund-raiser for the City, which I think could still be done, as part of a beautification project for the downtown. Citizens would not take the stone away, but might "purchase" a stone as a memorial tribute to a Veteran/ family member/ significant personage of historical import to your fair city, etc,etc.
Richard Stephen Day April 24, 2012 at 11:52 AM
It was I and my 2 friends who were asked to leave after only 45 min. of detecting downtown Rochester. We have over 70 years of detecting experience between us and we use only top of the line equipment. My detector with probe and extra coils is $2000 plus. I do better than most ; However, in my 32 years of detecting I'm not even close to breaking even. In the short time we were downtown we found a 1843 Large cent, 1883 Canadian Large cent, 6 Indian head pennies and a 1889 Seated Liberty dime. Total value of these coins 10-12 bucks tops because coming out of the ground they are nasty. Hardly covers the gas money but in the detecting world this is as good as it gets. We are history buffs! We estimate that if all the detectorist were allowed to detect the construction in downtown Rochester at best maybe 10% of what was lost would be recovered. Why? Because there are 10-15 junk metallic objects per square foot in the top 3" and those mask the items that will be deeper. What a shame that all these historical items will now be lost forever because of City Halls lack of understanding. We have never been asked to leave any other town and they all have just as much history as Rochester. My friends and I were were featured last June in a Lake Orion Review story "Uncovering Lake Orion's History" the story documents what we found and located. In Rochester we are called scavenging looters. So, it's on to the next town where I know we will be treated with respect.
Dan Windley April 24, 2012 at 06:22 PM
All of the comments posted have good points. Detecting within the fenced area should be ok with permission. The fenced in area is private property belong to the construction crew while they work there. Often trimes, permission is granted only after hours and on the weekends.
John - Edmonton April 24, 2012 at 10:57 PM
OMG! I can't believe a city would actually charge one it's own citizens with trespassing, just for metal detecting some torn up roads after hours downtown. You would think a large American city such as "Rochester" would at least accommodate the detectorists too. C'mon.......we are talking older coins. It's a no-brainer that some of these will be found. Old coins are of no significan historical value, especially in this scenario. Anyone with a small amount of grey matter can doesn't need old coins to put a date on the city. I am sure detectorists would gladly donate plenty of the finds should they be of any significance. For many it's the thrill of the hunt, not what it's worth. C'mon city council .....wake up! You have the opportunity to possibly retrieve some older finds under that road, at no cost to you, and you turn around and throw the public liabilty, tresspassing threats and insults? Please, wake up and work together so that all parties benefit. You were voted in, financially supported by the people to represent the people and problem solve, Not insult people with a passion for a simple hobby such as metal detecting. Surely, there are bigger, more serious issues demanding more energy, then dealing with a few people looking for old coins on some torn up roads in Rochester. John-Edmonton
Ken Lehocky May 25, 2012 at 07:25 PM
I am sure that construction isn't going on there 24/7. Why not allocate some time for your local detectorists to see what they can find, and stipulate that their finds must be displayed in your local library for a period of time before they are allowed to keep them. Letting relics and historical artifacts continue to deteriorate underneath a new layer of asphalt is just stupid. In my opinion, the residents of the city were the people that originally dropped the coins and relics there in the first place. Why not let your current residents recover them.
Josh Silva June 19, 2012 at 03:24 PM
More of those infamously vicious and criminal metal detectorists and relic-hunters. The cause of the downfall of society.....not drug dealers and gangbangers......Jeesh, when will it ever end???
Justin Roode July 15, 2012 at 06:06 PM
I am a metal detectorist as my main hobby, I can't believe what I'm reading, "looting " wow! I have never looted in fact I have returned 2 very expensive lost class rings in the 8 years I have been detecting and let me tell you those people really appreciated my "looting " unbelievable. I have never been hurt while detecting and I have the same chance of getting hurt detecting as you do walking through your local park. I am a very respectful detectorist and I do the best I can in making sure I don't go leaving "gopher holes" behind me. Let me explain to you non detectorists that 99% of all things found are 3"s or less and after extracting a target on a torn up road you would never know it, there is no beautiful green grass to destroy and even on an occasional 10-12" dig in those conditions it's easy to put the dirt back with NO HARM DONE! PERIOD! as far as me getting hurt, don't worry I have done well at not jumping into big trenches, Id be much more concerned with the 99.999% of the rest of the population that may be Sue happy. Oh and my "METAL" detector doesn't do well at finding bones, pottery and things of historical value, I mainly just "loot" for old coins. if I was there I would make a stand and if it leads to arrest I will be fighting against a non existing law that say I can't be on public property, What about walking your dog I guess that not near as dangerous therefore they don't arrest you for that, what a joke this is!!!!!
RyanC April 02, 2013 at 03:05 AM
"protect historic artifacts" Laughable!! First of all a $2 mercury dime is hardly an artifact. What construction crews do with the dark topsoil they find on a site is use it for fill dirt in a ravine, or other site, or dump it in a landfill. The hobbyist are the ones saving the any old coins. They do it for fun, and only average finding a few dollars an hour. Learn about the hobby first. Basically the someone complained to the city because they were jealous thinking that the hobbyist were finding hundreds of dollars in "artifacts," so they take pleasure in ruining the fun. Meanwhile the hobbyist are either to proud to admit that they only find a few dollars an hour, or are lucky enough to finally have found something of value, either way it is hard earned!

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