ELK COUNTY — According to Elk County law enforcement officers, the incidence of certain crimes has decreased since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Sgt. Michael Gray with Ridgway State Police said patrol-related incidents like driving under the influence (DUI) have gone down, perhaps because bars are closed.
“Not as much enforcement has been done, because there isn’t as much traffic,” he said.
There has also been an increase in certain incidents, such as domestic assaults, Gray added.
City of St. Marys Police Department Chief Tom Nicklas said since the beginning of March, the department has seen an approximately 30-percent reduction in all calls for service per week, on average.
“Reported crimes are down by a similar rate,” he said. “Over the past week, calls for service have begun to return to what SMPD is accustomed to, but it is too early to predict if that will continue short term.”
According to Nicklas, calls related to domestic altercations have also decreased in the City’s area.
Elk County District Attorney Thomas Coppolo said he is not receiving any fewer calls from law enforcement at night or on the weekends than he was before.
“I would hope there are less complaints,” he said. “I’d hope people are using their resources more judiciously.”
Many charges that go through the court system are drug and alcohol related, Coppolo adds.
“If people are staying home, they are not out on the roads having interactions with the officers,” he said. “The events they are doing that would normally occur outside are occurring inside their house.”
Certain incidents could be occurring simply because everybody is “on edge,” Coppolo said, and going a little stir crazy from the quarantine process.
Coppolo recently announced the implementation of a mutual aid agreement that grants county-wide jurisdiction and enforcement powers to municipal police departments due to COVID-19.
He has seen reports of certain areas with less police enforcement during the coronavirus pandemic, Coppolo said.
“We are going the opposite route here,” he said. “We are making sure all of the police departments are available to enforce laws. We are looking at different potential ways to handle incidents and arrests. To my knowledge, there is no one who has not been charged with a crime that was committed here in Elk County.”
Many people are experiencing high levels of fear and panic right now, Coppolo says, and it’s important for them to know the police departments are there for them.