Fewer calls has local law enforcement focused on community policing | SkyHiNews.com

Fewer calls has local law enforcement focused on community policing

GCSO deputies pose in their masks while on duty.
Courtesy Grand County Sheriff’s Office

With many Grand County residents practicing social distancing, traffic incidents and calls to police have dropped significantly.

Without the normal spring break crowds, Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said dispatchers have seen a significant drop in calls and estimated there has been a 60-70% reduction in traffic volume.

“Our call volume initially has not been as high as it was on a regular basis, especially in March, which is spring break and the end of ski season,” Schroetlin said. “We’ve kept busy and we’ve really wanted to make sure the deputies are visible.”

Granby Police Chief Jim Kraker has also noticed the call volume trend, particularly in regards to traffic. With fewer cars on the road, Kraker said some drivers are taking advantage of the open roads to go faster than normal.

“We have started to pick (traffic stops) up as we’ve noticed speeds are increasing in town,” Kraker said. 

In the Fraser Valley, Fraser Winter Park Police Chief Glen Trainor said calls for service were down by over half from April 1-20 compared to 2019. In addition to fewer traffic incidents, Trainor said disturbance calls, thefts and petty crimes are happening less frequently as well.

On the other hand, Trainor added that as the stay at home order continued on, the department has seen more calls for domestic disturbances and welfare checks.

“One of the things we’ve started to see escalate … over the last week or so, we’ve started to see an increase in the number of disturbances, arguments and the amount of welfare checks we’re doing,” he said. “I would not say it’s more than what we normally see, but it does seem to be taking a little bit more of our time than it was a couple weeks ago.”

Another aspect of the job law enforcement officials are emphasizing at this time is being present and visible in their communities. Schroetlin said the value and importance of a police presence goes way beyond deterring crime.

“During times like this, people look to law enforcement as those people who are the calm in the storm that are able to reassure them and that’s what I’ve asked our deputies to do,” he said. “A lot can be said about (visibility).”

Trainor and Kraker also describe patrols at businesses that remain open, such as Murdoch’s, Dollar General and Safeway, as a larger part of their daily duties, especially in the earlier days of the shutdown.

Officers patrol the stores to help enforce health orders and deter thefts or harassment, as well as just to help out and be an active part of the community by bagging groceries or chatting with customers.

“Obviously guarding toilet paper wasn’t taught at the academy,” Kraker said. “We’ve helped out at City Market and the dollar store in terms of helping our community. Some of it is as simple as allowing our senior population to get into the stores at designated hours.” 

As for health order violations, all three law enforcement agencies have received some complaints, but they haven’t seen a lot. Kraker said Granby police haven’t had to write anyone up yet.

Many times the issue can be solved with a conversation, Trainor added, and other complaints have turned out to not be violations of the orders, such as a group of people gathering in a yard that are members of the same household.

“In probably 95% of cases, all we’ve had to do is just go talk to people and people have been extremely cooperative with that,” Trainor said. “(Other) times, I think there’s some misunderstanding about what the orders imply.”

Grand County Search and Rescue didn’t receive a call for service until May 3, which Schroetlin noted is a good indicator residents are recreating safely and he encouraged recreators to continue to use good judgment.

Schroetlin also emphasized a similar message with the slow reopening of the county.

The state’s safer at home order allows more businesses to open up, gatherings up to 10 people and offices to return to half capacity. However, health officials are still urging caution when going outside and encouraging mask use, hand-washing and sanitation as much as possible.

On-duty officers also follow these precautions when they can, including wearing face masks and frequent hand washing.

“This last weekend, more than the last several weekends before, we saw more people out and about … even though the safer at home order had not gone into effect,” he said. “We encourage the safer at home philosophy and we’re asking the community for voluntary compliance with the safer at home orders. Follow the directions of the professionals.”

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