“Social distance” is a term that is trending as the country combats the coronavirus, or COVID-19.
Social distance is the perceived or desired degree of remoteness between a member of one social group and the members of another, as evidenced in the level of intimacy tolerated between them. With COVID-19 concerns, this type of separation is being respected and sought by people trying to avoid contact with the virus.
As a result, police agencies are taking unprecedented steps to keep their distance. This is difficult since police officers come into frequent contact with people who have compromised immune systems, i.e. drug addicts, the homeless, and career criminals who routinely avoid cleanliness as a matter of practice.
However, many police agencies have announced plans to reduce exposure risks while providing service, and the numbers are growing by the hour.
Multiple police departments in Colorado, including Denver and Aurora, will handle more reports over the phone as opposed to in person, 9 News reported.
“For example, if a resident calls Denver Police to report a property crime that previously occurred, a suspect is no longer present and there is no imminent threat to personal safety, an officer can call the person reporting the crime to obtain the necessary information to create a police report,” a note on DPD’s website reads. “The officer will then determine if additional investigative and/or evidence collection resources are required.”
The Aurora Police Department said due to COVID-19, officers will only respond to priority calls for service.
#APDAlert At this time, and until further notice, the Aurora Police Department will only respond to priority calls for service. A priority call for service is any situation where there is a crime in progress, not necessarily only where a life is in danger. Con'td… pic.twitter.com/GEEop9W6TU
— Aurora Police Dept. ???♀️??♂️ (@AuroraPD) March 14, 2020
“A priority call for service is any situation where there is a crime in progress, not necessarily only where a life is in danger,” a tweet from the department reads.
The department encouraged citizens to post online police reports, and to be willing to give information over the phone.
“Police officers are frequently in contact with many citizens, and we want to minimize the potential of our daily interactions from causing an exposure risk to you,” Aurora Police tweeted.
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The Dayton Police Department in Ohio has announced that it will be canceling or suspending a number of activities while the City of Dayton is under a Declaration of Emergency, Dayton Daily News reported.
In a release, the police department said that it was canceling all community engagement events, including community meetings, events, and department-sponsored training, and canceled all ride-alongs.
It also said that its volunteer Neighborhood Assistance Officers would not report for duty, and that officers would not be present at neighborhood association meetings.
The Portland Police Bureau announced Friday that it will reduce the number of calls that officers respond to in person. It will instead direct officers to use the phone to contact people who have reported some types of non-life-threatening crimes, The Oregonian reported.
Lansing Police Department in Michigan actually spelled it out with greater clarity.
In order to protect officers and community members during the COVID-19 outbreak, LPD will not respond in-person to take reports on the following crimes:
- Larceny, malicious destruction of property and retail frauds with no suspect or evidence, or where the value is under $1,000
- Attempted breaking and entering of unoccupied buildings, including garages and foreclosed houses
- Identification thefts where the victim was not financially harmed or the financial institution has reimbursed the victim for the loss
- Fraud of unauthorized credit card use when the venue of the crime is outside Lansing
- Harassing communications
- Lost property
Dispatch will direct the community to complete property crime reports online, using the LPD application or by telephone. All crimes will still be investigated, reported Lansing State Journal.
However, they wanted the public to know that police will still respond in-person to all calls involving violent crime.
San Angelo Police Department in Texas announced their online reporting feature will be mandatory for certain crimes until further notice, reported GoSanAngelo.
So while law enforcement agencies are taking unique steps to maintain their health, Law Officer encourages citizens to understand the increased risks faced by police officers, and offer them flexibility during the pandemic.