Crime rates see slight dip during COVID-19 quarantine

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Vehicles continue to be rifled for cash, valuables

Area law enforcement agencies have seen a noticeable dip in crime rates, which they have partially attributed to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) stay-at-home order.

In Monett, two vehicles were recently reported missing, which were later returned with no charges filed.

“In early March, we were way up on the number of stolen vehicles reported,” said Dave Haskins, Monett Police detective. “Those have dropped off in the last four weeks with the quarantine in place.”

Haskins said there had been a number of reports of vehicles being rifled through and some belongings taken.

“We cannot stress enough that these are crimes of opportunity,” he said. “People need to remove their valuables from their vehicles and lock them up. They certainly should not leave them parked with the keys in the ignition.”

Haskins said the department had made a couple of arrests in which adults, ranging from 20-40 years in age, were using credit or debit cards they have removed from unlocked vehicles.

Haskins said juvenile calls were down, having only had a handful of complaints over the past four weeks, along with the reports of two runaways.

He said surprisingly, there has been no significant increase in local domestic violence calls during the statewide quarantine.

“Those calls have remained consistent,” Haskins said. “In general, crimes were down, but we seem to be picking back up as the end of the quarantine approaches and traffic increases.”

According to Police Chief Jackie Lowe, things are relatively quiet in Purdy.

“We’ve had a few reports of shoplifting from the Country Store and Dollar General,” he said. “But it’s been stupid stuff, like fingernail polish.

“We have seen an increase in traffic offenses, primarily speeding, and an increase in the use of illegal drugs.”

Det. Melissa Phillips, with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, reported no real spike in criminal activity due to stay-at-home orders, but indicated investigation of those crimes has become more difficult with social distancing restrictions in place.

“We have seen a small spike in crimes we usually see at the end of the summer,” Phillips said. “We are getting reports of vandalism, property damage and mailbox bashing, the things we usually see when kids get bored before going back to school. We tend to see this kind of activity when kids are no longer in a stable pattern, when school is out.”

Despite being on the forefront, protecting their communities, officers are also dealing with the same issues impacting everyone else through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Some of us have spouses who have been furloughed, and some have families they are struggling to provide for,” Phillips said. “I’m hoping everyone stays strong. We will unite through this together. Everyone is struggling. We just have to be kind to one another.”

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