As nonessential businesses are forced to remain closed in both Montgomery and Harris counties until April 30 amid the coronavirus outbreak, Montgomery County Precinct 5 Constable Chris Jones said officers have begun doing more building and residential checks on areas that have closed down.
“Nonessential business [owners] that are closed down right now want to know that their place is secure,” he said.
Officer procedures have changed as well, Jones said, as officers now have to ensure their vehicles are cleaned and disinfected after each person.
“If we come in contact with somebody that we suspect might have something, we will put a mask on them and a mask on our guys,” he said.
Although Jones said felony arrests have been made during the pandemic, he has not seen an influx of crime.
Jones and Magnolia Police Department Chief Kyle Montgomery said generally most people have seemed to follow the stay-at-home orders implemented in mid-March.
“Everything has been lower,” Montgomery said. “If you go out in the streets, there is very little traffic.”
Montgomery said it has been more difficult to do daily operations because it is difficult to know who might have the coronavirus.
“We are still doing what we normally do; we are just trying to be more careful about it when we interact with citizens,” he said.
Still, the day-to-day operations of the department have not changed much, Montgomery said, as officers still need to be out in the community and cannot work from home.
However, Edward “Skip” Oliver, the interim chief of police for the city of Tomball, said a lot has changed since the outbreak started.
“We stopped doing anything in groups,” he said.
Oliver said some officers have obligations to take care of their children and have had to stay home, which has resulted in shifts being extended from eight hours to 12 hours to ensure the number of officers on duty is maintained.
Since stay-at-home orders were implemented, the city of Tomball has seen a slight decrease in crime, Oliver said, but the number of domestic violence calls has increased.
“[In] January we had 19 calls for service, February we had 17, and in March we had 27 [domestic violence calls],” he said. “I’ll attribute [it] to people having to be at home.”
Oliver also said the outbreak has given officers some anxiety, as there is no idea how long the outbreak will last and whether they could be exposed to the virus.
“We are all worried about being exposed and knowing when we were exposed as we certainly deal with a lot of folks,” he said. “I’m staying away from my friends right now just because of the number of people I’m exposed to.”