Chesterton Tribune



Arrests in county plummet amid COVID19 crisis

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Custodial arrests in Porter County--those in which a police officer takes a person into physical custody and transports the detainee to jail on a criminal charge or charges--plummeted in the two weeks since Gov. Eric Holcomb issued his shelter-in-place executive order, on Monday, March 23.

Consider: during the first seven days of March, a total of 92 custodial arrests was made in the county by all law enforcement agencies; during the second seven days, 88; then--in the week preceding Holcomb’s executive order, as the gravity of COVID-19 first began to dawn on people in the region--that number dropped to 42; while during the last seven days of March, only 18 arrests were made.

For the first 21 days of March, 10 people on average per day were booked into the Porter County Jail per day. In the last seven days of the month, only 2.5.

The drop in custodial arrests, according to the Chesterton Police Department and the Porter County Sheriff’s Office, appears to be a combination of two factors. For one thing, people are for the most part abiding by the shelter-in-place order. More people at home mean fewer on the roads, where most custodial arrests begin: with traffic stops.

But police officers are also using their discretion in making custodial arrests, and may be more willing to issue court summons and release people at the scene, especially in the case of non-violent offenses, such as driving while suspended-prior or possession of marijuana or paraphernalia.

Chesterton Police Chief Dave Cincoski cites a number of startling statistics indicating that, to his way of mind, folks are “taking the governor’s orders and restrictions seriously":

-- Since the shelter-in-place order was issued, the CPD has experienced a 40-percent drop in calls for police service or assistance.

-- During the same time, custodial arrests have decreased by 100 percent.

-- The number of summonses issued in lieu of custodial arrests has decreased by 72 percent.

-- And the number of car accidents has decreased by 77 percent.

“This obviously indicates that Chestertonians are doing their part to keep themselves, their families, and their neighbors safe and healthy,” Cincoski said. “With the obvious decline in criminal offenses, residents are not only staying safe and healthy, they are being respectful and responsible. I would like to thank the residents of our town for their patience and observance of the governor’s executive orders.”

Cincoski emphasized, though, that violent crime and offenses like operating while intoxicated will not be tolerated. “While measures have been taken and department directives issued for the safety and health of the department’s officers and the public they come in contact with, this does not mean that criminal offenders will go unnoticed or given a pass,” Cincoski pledged. “The Porter County Prosecutor’s Office has given local law enforcement some latitude in issuing a court summons to some criminal offenders. However, violent offenders, drunk drivers, and felony crimes will still be investigated, charged, and suspects incarcerated.”

While grateful to Dunelanders for self-isolating at home, Cincoski did remind residents that the shelter-in-place order does not prohibit folks from visiting those local businesses which remain open. “Seek out those that are operating curbside and delivery services,” he said. “And remind yourself of the six-foot social-distance threshold in all your encounters, even with law enforcement.”

Porter County Sheriff’s Office

The Porter County Sheriff’s Office is experiencing much the same drop in calls for service as the CPD has.

As Cpl. Ben McFalls told the Chesterton Tribune, “During this coronavirus pandemic, we believe the numbers show, particularly in Porter County, that people are adhering to the governor’s orders, doing their best to maintain social distance, and stay at home if possible. Fewer people are on the road, and recently less crime has been occurring. We believe this situation has reminded our community to cherish what we have and that life is fragile. Our officers are ever ready to protect and serve our citizens during this evolving situation. We appreciate this great community we serve and want to encourage the public to continue to remain vigilant.”

“Our No. 1 priority is the safety, security, and health of every citizen in Porter County,” Sheriff Dave Reynolds said. “We are working closely with the Health Department, Commissioner Laura Blaney, President of the County Council Jeremy Rivas, Emergency Management, 911, and all the police departments. In addition, we have been on conference calls with the Department of Corrections, regarding the care of inmates and have established a protocol for all arrested to ensure that they would not potentially infect our jail population.”

“I want to thank the judges and Prosecutor Gary Germann for working with law enforcment to assure the criminal justice system remains intact during these trying times,” Reynolds added.



Posted 4/8/2020




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