Many police departments in the region are seeing a noticeable drop in calls for service with the spread of COVID-19 while others are seeing a shift in the types calls and how they are handling them.
Social distancing has caused at least one police department to alter its policy to limit contact with the public in responding to calls. And before Ohio’s stay at home order started March 23, Dayton police witnessed a spike in mental health calls compared to last year.
Law enforcement in Centerville, Miamisburg, Miami County, Moraine, Springboro, Warren County and West Carrollton all have received fewer calls for service since mid-March, records show.
The closing of malls, restaurants, bars and other businesses since the virus became a public health concern are contributing factors, as is a drop in vehicle traffic, police said.
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Meanwhile, Montgomery County regional dispatch has not seen a jump in calls, and the Greene and Miami county sheriff’s offices have not seen crime increase since the coronavirus outbreak, officials said.
There also has been fewer bookings for domestic violence into the Montgomery County Jail so far this year compared to last year, according to county data.
A change in policy
West Carrollton has adopted a policy of responding for calls for service upon request “and then taking some of those calls for service over the phone,” Police Chief Doug Woodard said.
“When the onset of the seriousness of this virus came upon us, we decided to limit our officers’ contact with public unless it was necessary,” he added.
West Carrollton’s approach, Woodard said, has contributed to its drop in calls for service. Police there saw those numbers go from 341 the first week of March to 195 in the third week and 163 the following one, records show.
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Similarly, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office has seen a drop of 200 in total incidents the past 30 days, according to Maj. Brian Tinch.
“I would (attribute) that to less people being out and about traveling in the community and less businesses being operational, which reduces our total responses to incidents,” he said in an email.
Dayton, however, has seen a steep increase in mental health calls for service, authorities said. Through the week ending March 22, the department had a 49% increase from last year, receiving 817 compared to 548 that last time last year.
Through the week ending March 29, citizen-generated calls for service were up 6.1% - 25,259 – compared to last year’s 23,818, officials said.
Since March 1, the numbers have remained steady in Miami Twp., where police have averaged about 500 to 600 calls a week the past two years, said Capt. John Magill.
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March 8-14 showed a peak of 619 calls. On March 13, Gov. Mike DeWine ordered bars and in-service restaurants to close. The following week 496 calls for service were received, Miami Twp. records show.
“All of the restaurants are closed. The Dayton Mall is closed,” Magill said. “So there would be a shift in activity levels for us because we’re driven so much by retail sales” sites.
‘Reductions in all types of calls’
Centerville calls for service saw a 21% drop (182) in the last week of March from the first week, going from 229 to 182, officials said.
In Miamisburg, those same calls topped at 361 in the second week of March to 259 in the final week, records show. Moraine saw a similar trend, going from 335 the first week to 239 in the final one.
Springboro is “seeing reductions in all types of calls for service,” according to Police Chief Jeff Kruithoff.
Montgomery County Criminal Justice Director Joe Spitler said there have been 521 jail bookings for domestic violence in 2020. Last year at this time, there were 540. In March 2019, there were 182 bookings for domestic violence offenses, Spitler said, and this March there were 142 bookings.
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However, the data might be skewed as requests from both Dewine and Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck have asked deputies and officers to be mindful of who they arrest and bring into the jail. However, Streck said that deputies and officers are permitted to book domestic violence suspects into the jail and protect their victims.
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office encourages anyone with an emergency to dial 911, as normal. Deputies and other emergency personnel are committed to serving the community throughout the pandemic.
Domestic violence concerns
In Greene County, Maj. Kirk Keller said the sheriff’s office hasn’t seen an increase in crime since the outbreak. He said jail bookings are down, but only because like in Montgomery County, the office has asked that only violent criminals and sexual related-offense be met with an arrest.
In Miami County, Sheriff David Duchak said his office also hasn’t seen an increase in crime.
“In fact, we have seen a decrease,” he said. “Calls for service county-wide are currently down approximately 25% from a year ago. Our communications center has not experienced any issues to date. There has not been a noticeable increase in domestic violence cases to date, however we are expecting to see an increase if this continues to go long into the future.”
Artemis Domestic Violence Center Director Jane Keiffer said while arrests are down, there is still a concern that domestic violence victims have been unable to reach police because their abuser is in the home at all times.
“There is the problem of being able to call with the abuser standing right there,” Keiffer said. “Sometimes, abusers take phones, monitor and control their victim They may be taking phones.”
Staff Writers Cornelius Frolik and Wayne Baker contributed to this report.
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