Police reports look different during pandemic

School Resource Officer Joe Buchheit shows participants of Smithville’s 2019 Junior Police Academy how officers can secure weapons without leaving suspects unattended. This year’s academy was canceled due to coronavirus.

SMITHVILLE — City departments have been impacted by coronavirus in a multitude of ways, as have school districts and everyday life in the community. Smithville Police Department Chief Jason Lockridge said one major impact the force has seen is related to community programs.

“The Citizen’s Academy and (junior police academy) have been suspended for the time being,” Lockridge said. “We hope to have these programs in the summer of 2021.”

Another way things have changed is how officers conduct their duties.

“Officers are trying to handle as much as possible without face-to-face contact, sometimes taking reports via telephone when possible,” Lockridge said. “Officers are also responding to calls and asking individuals, when possible, to speak with them outside or on the front porch of a residence.”

Similarly to the rest of the population, the chief added officers are wearing face coverings when associating with people. Lockridge said the department also has implemented cleaning regiments for vehicles and the police station.

Other aspects of the force are business as usual. From January through July, SPD has issued 772 traffic citations and 152 citations for nontraffic offenses. Compared to the same timeframe last year, traffic citations are down from 1,321 and nontraffic offenses are up from 145.

“For 2020, we have responded to 87 traffic crashes, as compared to 108 in 2019,” Lockridge added.

Violent crime is down, too. The department has had nine reported from January through July in 2020 compared to 2019’s 13. Three of the violent crimes were sexual assaults, compared to seven during the corresponding time of 2019.

Although most crime has trended downward during pandemic, the city has seen a few more domestic disputes, reporting 51 from January through July, compared to 49 during the same time last year.

“I’ve been pleased,” Lockridge continued, “with officers’ and (Smithville citizens’) ability to adapt to these changing times.”

Northwest Editor Sean Roberts can be reached at sean.roberts@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6606.

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