JPD Watching For Crime Spikes, Educating Public On Physical Distancing

By Benjamin Cox on April 13, 2020 at 10:35pm

The Jacksonville Police Department is keeping an eye on crime during the stay at home order for the state. Police Chief Adam Mefford says he’s been tracking the shift logs each day to see if there is any anomalies of particular crimes occurring while everyone should be staying at home. “We really haven’t noticed an extreme uptick in crimes. I think some of them may be more noticeable because they stick out in the situation we’re all in right now. For instance, with the stay-at-home order, when we do have calls or things that stick out, they are more prevalent now because of that order. People are noticing them more. We are trying to get individuals to voluntarily comply. We are keeping a close eye on those type of situations.”

Mefford says that the department isn’t using harsh enforcement measures when it comes to social distancing guidelines, but have tried to use it as a point to educate the public about its importance. “From the police department’s perspective, we don’t want to criminalize something what would be normalized behavior any other time. From our standpoint, we want to educate and give everyone a chance to cooperate with the order without having to take police action. The last thing that we want to do is start hauling a bunch of people to jail for violating this order. However, we’re prepared to take action if we need to as a last resort. We want to try to gain voluntary compliance by educating people and using our knowledge of what the order is to explain to people why it’s important that it’s followed.”

Mefford says he ran numbers on health, wellness, and person checks from February 2019 through April 8th, 2019 and did it for the same time period this year. He said the number of police department calls during that time period had only grown by 2. He said that people are taking more note to the police being out and answering calls because of the stay at home order.

Mefford says it has created some barriers for ongoing investigations. “It’s created some barriers because as a police force, we’re trying to keep our officers safe and the public safe. We’re trying to maintain social distance when we’re talking to people. We’re trying to do a lot of work over the telephone. We’re trying to do a lot of non-essential-type police work by phone rather than in person. It has created a bit of a challenge because there is no replacing good old fashioned police work where you’re out and communicating with the public in a one-on-one situation. The phone does create that sense of a barrier between both parties, and we don’t get to build that report as well on the phones as we would by just meeting the people we’re trying to help.”

Mefford said that with warmer weather on the way that the department will understand the public’s urge to get outside and possibly be tempted to gather in groups. Mefford said he doesn’t want to discourage people going out because it’s a vital part of staying active and healthy. He hopes that people will maintain physical distancing if they do decide to venture out.