LAKE TWP. Uniontown Police Chief Michael Batchik said the number of calls has stayed the same so far throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. He did say while some calls have had a slight increase, other calls such as those for traffic accidents have decreased because there are fewer people on the roads.
“Our call volume has really stayed close to what we usually get,” Batchik said. “We have seen a few more domestic violence calls but our theft calls are still about the same. Crime continues to happen in any kind of an environment. Traffic accidents have seen a decline. While there are fewer people on the road, there are still more people on the roads than what we expected.”
Batchik said he is seeing more cars, especially during the day, than he expected to see. He’s also seen more elderly people out and about than he expected.
“I understand people have to get to the grocery store, but I thought I would see more people shopping for the elderly than I’m seeing. Plus, it would probably be better if only one person from a couple’s home would come out shop instead of both coming,” he said.
He is warning people of two scams that have started recently. One is where people are going door-to-door to tell residents they can do testing for the virus and then they get personal information. Batchik said that is not the procedure to get tested and that residents should not participate in answering any questions regarding their personal or health data.
The second scam is where someone texts or calls a person about helping them get their government relief check deposited. The scammers ask for bank account information and other personal details so that they can steal the check or gain access to a bank account.
“For both of those scams, testing and getting a relief check, neither use such a protocol. People have to go to a medical facility for testing right now and the relief check will come directly to them in their mail,” Batchik said.
The department has implemented a number of new procedures in efforts to keep those working in the department safe. They have limited access to the police department’s building to the general public. They have postponed the prescription drop off service and the fingerprinting service for residents.
“All of our officers have gloves and hand sanitizer in their cars and we also have masks that were donated to the department. Plus, we do have officers who use a vehicle for one shift, and another uses for a different shift. We are requiring officers to clean the vehicle before a shift change or after transporting someone,” Batchik said.
He said they usually send an officer out for every call, but they have been taking some reports for minor calls over the phone for now. Batchik said that officers do go out for crimes, domestic violence and are still making arrests.
The department uses two dispatchers, one in the daytime hours and a different one for afternoons and midnights. There are protocols in place for the dispatchers to make sure officers are not going into a quarantined situation.
“All of our officers have been told to assume they could encounter someone with the virus or has potential for the virus on every call,” Batchik said. “Everyone has been calm throughout this situation so far. There was some panic buying in the stores at first but that has calmed down. I just want to recommend to residents to remain calm. If we all stay calm and don’t panic, we can get through this together.”