Portland police see changes as COVID-19 pandemic takes hold
As the coronavirus slowdown takes hold in Oregon, Portlanders are driving crazy. Domestic violence cases are not going down, but child abuse cases are — and victims of both cimes may not be reporting as much as they used to.
Also, not surprisingly, people need food — lots of them. Also, people who visit the bank seem more stressed out than usual, employees are telling police.
These are some of the takeaways coming out of the Portland Police Bureau in recent days.
Chief Jami Resch on Friday discussed some of the trends she and her officers are seeing. One of the most noticeable: speeding.
"Deputy Chief (Chris) Davis actually did a traffic stop on his way home from work the other night," Resch said, referring to her second-in-command at the bureau. "Somebody was doing 91 miles an hour on I-5."
Information gathered by the Portland Police Bureau has always provided a window of sorts on what people are doing within city limits.
In the time of coronavirus, the bureau continues to do so, even though it's been less than two weeks since Gov. Kate Brown issued her order for people to stay home as much as possible.
As businesses have shut down, people are laid off and everyone is told to stay home to slow the spread of disease, early fears of civil unrest have not come to pass. But the needs are skyrocketing.
Over at the Sunshine Division, the nonprofit affiliated with the bureau, workers are getting vastly more requests for free food boxes, said the division's Kyle Camberg.
"The volume of calls we're getting from people can't leave their house is staggering. And it's "Now it's five Six, Seven an hour.... I would say on average, I'm getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 to 50 a day from people with questions and people from all walks of life."
On a recent follow-along with a neighorhood officer, Matt Jacobsen, he visited a local Wells Fargo bank branch and a teller there told him the people coming into the bank have been distinctly stressed.
Dispatched calls down
Police, however, are seeing fewer calls than usual — being dispatched ten percent less than they were in the past, according to the bureau.
As far as crimes, the stats on speeding in particular jump out, Resch said. The number of citations given for people going 31 miles per hour or more over the speed limit have tripled, going from about 11 per week to a staggering 34 between March 16 and March 22, according to the bureau.
The number of citations given for driving between 11 miles per hour and 20 miles per hour over the limit has dropped precipitously, however, from highs around 115 a week to just eight in the last week recorded — perhaps indicating a change in police priorities.
As far as all the Portlanders who haven't been heeding the governor's order to comply with social distancing, the bureau hasn't issued any citations, Resch said, stressing that the bureau is going with an educational approach. "People have been cooperative," she said.
Child abuse calls down
Sgt. Davis Kile, who supervises the child abuse team in Portland said that the number of calls — typically 40-50 a day — have been drastically reduced. In the past many of those came from child care workers and teachers.
"We believe that the child abuse is still taking place," he said.
Resch urged members of the public to report any suspected child abuse or domestic violence.
"We need to be reaching out and checking in with folks as much as we can," she said. "I understand that can be even more difficult when children are involved because they don't have access to a lot of these resources or telephones ... If somebody does feel for any reason that somebody is at risk, I would encourage them to call up and have a police officer check."
No known positive tests on officers
As of Friday April 3, no Portland Police Officers have yet reported having tested positive, Resch said.
But that doesn't mean there aren't any. Within the bureau, some officers are said to be staying home with suspected symptoms of COVID-19, according to informed sources.
Sgt. Tina Jones, the bureau's public information officer, said without confirmed test results, there's no way to know — and the bureau doesn't have access to that information.
"The Chief has asked all staff to stay home if sick. We do not have a way to know if an officer or professional staff member is staying home on sick time with symptoms or not, as that is medical information they are not required to share," Jones wrote in an email.
Resch said she's heartened how even as the community's needs have grown, members of the community are reaching out to help — help not just police, but their neighbors, and others in general. "I'm getting lots of messages of 'How can I help? How can I help?" she added.
"It's a very difficult time here in Portland. But it's an amazing time to because we're seeing what everybody is capable of doing," she added. "While this is very difficult, I think it's also highlighting the best of people."
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