Even a global pandemic like COVID-19 has at least one “benefit” for the community, at least at first glance. Hamilton County has steadily seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of arrests made over the last two weeks, according to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office arrest records.
According to the website that has bookings going back to Feb. 25, arrests stayed in the 50s to 60s until March 7, when only 46 arrests were made.
In the March 7 to March 20 period, arrest numbers stayed below 60 every day except for March 13, when 74 arrests were made.
But arrest numbers have cratered in the last four days since March 21, with 16, 15, 17 and 16 arrests being made on each of those respective days. Chief Deputy Austin Garrett said that, while the pandemic was a large factor in the lower number of arrests, it was not the only one.
“The coronavirus is a driving factor on those numbers,” said Chief Deputy Garrett. "But a couple of things contributing to that are where people have been asked to close businesses and stay home and limiting their mobility. People complying with that contributes to fewer calls for service in the retail establishments.”
He also cited the lower number of cars on the road as a reason for fewer arrests, saying, “There’s less traffic on the roads, where we’re not working crashes and where we might be interacting with someone with a warrant or who might be driving under the influence.”
Chief Deputy Garrett also spoke about how officers are attempting to avoid making arrests whenever possible. Rather than making an arrest, a citation may be given instead. While people who commit lesser crimes will need to turn themselves in at a later date, that date is several weeks off.
“We’ve encouraged officers to exercise a little more discretion, which officers do every day,” said Chief Deputy Garrett. “But we’ve asked for more use of citations in lieu of an arrest. What that looks like is that someone committing a non-violent misdemeanor such as shoplifting would normally get arrested. But now officers are going a little bit farther to verify that person’s identity to give a citation in lieu of an arrest.”
“Then those booking dates being given for a person to turn themselves in to be processed, those are being set off at least 45 days by all of the agencies. We may see some rising numbers three months from now based on citations. Right now we don’t know that, and it may not be a significant number.”
Despite the slightly altered method law enforcement is taking in order to “flatten the curve” in Hamilton County, Chief Deputy Garrett said that would not affect their ability to protect those within the county.
“The Sheriff’s Office personnel are out every day protecting the people that live and travel through our county,” said Chief Deputy Garrett. “The coronavirus will not prevent us from being there when the public needs us.”