At the Ocean View Police Department, where the slogan is “Small Agency, Big Results,” Police Chief Ken McLaughlin has a warning in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“If you intend to come to Ocean View and commit a crime, you will be held accountable. The OVPD is stepping up neighborhood patrols, and criminal activity of any kind will not be tolerated. All citizens are urged to report any suspicious activity immediately to the police by calling 911,” he said.
“That’s right. We not easing up on any enforcements. We don’t want scams or schemes. There are folks who are scared, and we will be out there,” Officer Russell Carter told the Coastal Point this week.
Police officers are on duty and have been provided with face masks, gloves and eye protection, if needed.
They are responsible for enforcing Gov. John Carney’s order for Delawareans to remain at home except for essential trips.
“We are going to work with folks. There are always extenuating circumstances, but we don’t want folks to be coming to our jurisdiction if they don’t have to be out, and we are going to approach them,” Carter said.
“This is a dynamic situation. We are getting clarifications from the Attorney General’s Office on how to enforce it. It’s new for all of us,” he said.
Officers are following Center for Disease Control guidelines and trying to keep a safe distance from others, especially those displaying symptoms of the virus.
“We are still actively out there patrolling, making sure we are showing a presence in the community. If need be, the officers have gloves, face masks and goggles. If they encounter someone on the street, they do social distancing. One of the great things is they can put a mask on if they ask for one,” Carter said.
“We are stepping up precautionary measures. We’re not used to having things we can’t see to deal with, but this is an invisible force. You don’t know who has come in contact with it and who hasn’t until they present some kind of symptoms,” Carter said.
McLaughlin said the recently adopted Memorandum of Understanding between Ocean View and South Bethany police has been helpful.
“Chief [Jason] Lovins and I are working together to protect our staff and limit exposure. We are prepared in case one of our departments suffers from a COVID-19 exposure or outbreak. The current situation is an example of why the MOU was established,” McLaughlin told the Coastal Point.
In Millsboro, Police Chief Brian Calloway said officers have masks, gloves and instructions.
“If you come to someone’ s home, ask them to come outside so you can speak to them, instead of going in, keeping a safe distance from people. A lot of our response is more reactionary,” Calloway said.
“We are still conducting traffic stops, but right now we have suspended our officer highway-safety stops. If we can handle any complaints over the phone, we do that.
“We are trying to limit exposure as much as possible … but you can’t stop reckless driving, impaired driving,” he said.
Several Millsboro officers serve in the National Guard, but Calloway said he has been told officers and first-responders won’t be activated during the coronavirus state-of-emergency.
“I am worried if we start having — not just officers — but if family members come down with this virus. We have a plan in place. We have suspended vacations. Any sick time has to be with a doctor’s excuse.
“We are trying to put procedures in place to limit exposure. Other police departments are doing this as well,” he said.
Calloway said his police force will make sure local residents are not out unnecessarily and that the governor’s order is taken seriously.
He said calls for service and automobile crashes are down, indicating that more people are staying home.
In both Frankford and Dagsboro, officers said they will take precautions to ensure the safety of officers while keeping order and being sure no one is out without reason.
Lt. John Devlin of the Fenwick Island Police Department said officers there are maintaining distance when speaking to people, and using hand sanitizer.
“We are enforcing the governor’s orders and using hand sanitizer until the officers have a chance to wash their hands,” Devlin said.
“We are responsible for our areas, if people don’t stay home. There was an influx over the weekend of people coming down from other areas. We prefer they stay home They could spread the virus.
“People say, ‘We’re coming from another place because we are running low on food.’ Well, we are here, too. If you’re quarantined to an area where you have issues, we prefer you stay there,” he said.
Delaware beaches closed to the public last weekend, and local beaches are not open to locals, joggers or dog-walkers, as they are in some other towns.
“It’s easier to close it to all the public, rather than making contact with additional people and asking, ‘What are you doing here?’ ‘Are you walking your dog?’ Most of the problem corrected itself when the beaches closed,” Devlin said.
Officers are keeping an eye on the beaches to be sure no crowds gather and have posted signs stating they are closed, he said.