City police see drop in crime rate due to COVID-19

WESTFIELD- The Westfield Police Department has seen a noticeable drop in crime since people in Westfield have begun social isolation measures said Chief Lawrence P. Valliere March 24. 

Valliere said that calls for any police service in Westfield has decreased. This is likely due to the increase in social distancing and self-isolation as the spread of the coronavirus began to intensify. Valliere said, however, that he expects that this may change as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds locally and globally. 

I would expect that people’s patience will wear as their normal activities continue to be limited. An uptick in domestic disturbances would not be surprising. With any situation there are always those who look to exploit it,” said Valliere.

In addition to domestic violence incidents, Valliere said he expects that internet and phone scams may increase. He said the pandemic and relating panic would cause people to take advantage of the situation and employ coronavirus-related scams.

One concern Valliere and the police have is that the closing of businesses in the city may leave some to be vulnerable to break-ins. 

Governor Charlie D. Baker on Monday announced that Massachusetts would join several other states in implementing an advisory for residents to stay at home and for non-essential businesses to temporarily close. 

Valliere said there is little enforcement that the police can do relating to Baker’s request, as it is just an advisory rather than a shelter-in-place order. One can leave their home, but it is highly recommended that they only do so for emergencies and to get essential supplies. 

“It is an advisory to do the right thing and stay home as much as possible. People are allowed to leave their homes,” said Valliere.

The pandemic has also changed the day-to-day work done by Westfield Police Department. In order to limit the potential spread of the virus in the police department itself, the outgoing and incoming shifts no longer meet to exchange pertinent information at the shift change. The information is instead exchanged via email and the in-cruiser chat screens. 

“We have also installed a Ring doorbell at the main entrance. This allows us to control unnecessary access to the building, while still providing direction to the visitor,” said Valliere.

Valliere said that the department has been able to acquire enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to distribute to all working officers. Daily cleaning and sanitization of the department has also become a routine. 

“Dispatchers also prescreen callers to determine if they may be exhibiting symptoms of the virus. This prepares fire and police ahead of time before entering or interacting with a potentially infected person,” said Valliere. 

The police have also been working closely with the Westfield Health Department. Per state law, the Health Department is allowed to share the identity and physical location of any quarantined individuals in the city to police and other first responders. 

“This information is transferred from the health department and entered into our dispatch system. This creates another firewall that helps to minimize the chance that a first responder will become infected,” said Valliere.

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