State and County decisions that are designed to minimize COVID-19 impacts in the jails are handcuffing local police whenever they face the decision of whether to arrest someone or just issue a citation.
The state has, for all practical purposes, placed arresting the spread of COVID above arresting some violators, such as those accused of drug possession, theft and fraud.
The Escondido Police Department recently issued an advisory to residents that in effect warned them that the police may not be able to book many of the people who may be victimizing them.
The EPD noted that, “On December 5, in response to the COVID 19 pandemic, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department amended its booking criteria for criminal violators that can actually be booked into jail. Police are not able to book people into jail for certain violations, such as, drug possession and being under the influence, many theft and fraud charges, and auto theft without priors. Under more extreme circumstances, the police can petition the court in an attempt to book the subject if not doing so would place the community at risk.”
So the EPD is asking the community to concentrate on crime prevention. It offers these tips:
• Don’t leave valuables in your parked cars
• Don’t leave your car running while unattended
• Don’t send anyone money who you don’t know
• Consider exterior lighting and cameras for your home
The Times-Advocate contacted EPD Chief Ed Varso to get his perspective on these recent developments: “We have essentially been impacted from both State and County level decisions to minimize COVID-19 outbreaks in the jails by controlling jail populations. State prisons are releasing people early to reduce the prison population in response to COVID-19 concerns and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is limiting what criminal offenses can be booked into county jails for the same purpose.”