Over the past two weeks, the list of arrests by local law enforcement agencies has dropped significantly, and police incident reports submitted to the public also have seen a large reduction.
While law enforcement leaders say the reason is not definite, it could be due to several factors caused by the current COVID-19 reaction.
Usually on Mondays, after a busy weekend, the Bulloch County Jail sends out a lengthy list of people who were arrested between Friday and early Monday morning. The jail houses inmates arrested by Portal, Register and Brooklet police as well as Bulloch County Sheriff’s deputies, Georgia State Patrol troopers, Georgia Southern University police as well as other agencies. This almost always means dozens of names, but the roll call Monday, March 23, only listed 15 total arrests for the previous weekend.
The week before, Tuesday through Thursday, there was a total of only 23 inmates booked in for those four days.
On Monday, March 16, the Bulloch County Jail daily release listed 57 inmates who had been jailed the weekend before.
In an email sent to Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown, Bulloch County Sheriff’s Capt. Todd Hutchens and Bulloch County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Bill Black, the only response was from Black.
In his emailed reply, Black said “I have not noticed a particular decrease in crime in general. However, I do believe we are seeing or will see a decrease in traffic related offenses as there are fewer people on the roads.”
Out of the 57 arrests listed March 23, 15 were traffic related. Eighteen were only serving weekend time or other short-term sentences.
According to arrests and incident records, arrests for crimes has drastically dropped this past week.
“I don’t know if you can chalk it up to anything in particular, but more people are staying inside,” said Statesboro Police Capt. Jared Akins. “Georgia Southern University is out and the students are not around. A lot of them left (after the university closed due to the coronavirus) and GSU is not up and running.”
State troopers are “being more careful” and stopping drivers for only the more serious infractions, said Georgia State Patrol Post 45 Commanded Sgt. Chris Rodewolt. “But we are still patrolling and enforcing the law.” Lesser traffic due to statewide mandates to avoid travel and stay home unless necessary may also attribute to fewer traffic stops, he agreed,’
These precautions by law enforcement do not mean officers aren’t on patrol or on duty. The threat of a virus is not going to give lawbreakers carte blanche. Arrests can and still will occur, according to the officers.
However, “We are not limiting misdemeanor arrests but are asking LEO's to issue citations where possible instead of transporting to the jail,” Black said. That practice has been in place for some time with misdemeanor marijuana and shoplifting offenses within the city of Statesboro. But, “There are certain misdemeanors that must come to jail, such as driving under the influence and domestic violence, et cetera,” Black said.
Another measure the jail is taking is releasing some inmates on bond that can be bonded, he said. Reducing overcrowding in the jail can help decrease chances of illness in case the virus appears.
“The only releases we are looking at is non-violent offenders whom our medical staff determines have an increased vulnerability to the virus,” he said. “This is on a case by case basis depending on their criminal history and advice from medical.”
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at 912-489-9414.