By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — Indiana is entering its second phase of re-opening the state this week after a statewide stay-at-home order was implemented toward the end of March.
But even during a period where certain restrictions on travel and gatherings were in effect, incidents like family fights or thefts still happened. Crimes, medical emergencies and vehicle accidents don’t stop, even during a global pandemic.
County statistics comparing the beginning of 2020 to the same period in 2019 demonstrate both increases and decreases in certain types of incidents that fire departments, first responders and law enforcement agencies respond to.
The county jail’s inmate number has also been affected by the virus.
As of late April, the Kosciusko County Jail had 229 inmates in custody, with the jail’s maximum capacity being 302. According to Kosciusko County Jail Commander Shane Coney, the current number of inmates at the jail is lower than average due to the pandemic.
“In 2019, we probably averaged somewhere around the 260 to 270 mark,” said Kosciusko County Sheriff Kyle Dukes.
According to statistics provided by the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office and Kosciusko County Dispatch, the number of vehicle accidents appears to have decreased county-wide. From February to April 2019, KCSO responded to 288 property damage accidents and 44 personal injury accidents. Comparatively, the same timeframe for 2020 shows KCSO responded to 233 property damage accidents and 28 personal injury accidents.
The Warsaw Police Department responded to 83 vehicle accidents in April 2019, and 34 vehicle accidents in April 2020.
Even though accidents appear to be on the decline due to travel restrictions, domestic incidents have increased in some aspects. From February to April 2019, KCSO responded to 73 domestic complaints and 35 family fights. The 2020 timeframe shows the agency responded to 96 domestic complaints, but 33 family fights. In total, the Warsaw Police Department responded to 31 domestic complaints and family fights in 2019; in 2020, the department responded to 26 total. Both departments showed increases in domestic complaints, but decreases in family fights.
“For the most part, our call volume has been drastically low,” said Dukes.
“It’s nothing like what it’s ever been,” said KCSO Public Information Officer Chris Francis.
Fraud incidents and juvenile complaints also appear to have declined. From February to April 2019, KCSO responded to 95 juvenile complaints and 55 fraud incidents. 2020’s timeframe shows 65 juvenile complaints and 23 fraud incidents. WPD’s 2019 and 2020 statistics also show decreases in juvenile complaints and frauds.
The jail has also changed several aspects within the facility as a result of the pandemic. The Kosciusko County Jail Chemical Addiction Program (JCAP) is currently shut down.
“The only people entering our facility now are our officers and our medical provider,” said Coney. “Attorneys aren’t coming back like they used to. Everyone’s been cooperating and it’s been helping us out a lot.”
During the first 48 hours a person is brought into the jail for booking, they are quarantined and observed to make sure they show no signs of COVID-19. After that, they join the general jail population if they’re still being held in custody. Deputy sheriffs are also having their temperatures taken before and after every shift.
The sheriff’s office and other county law enforcement agencies, along with County Prosecutor Dan Hampton, have also held weekly conference calls to ensure that everyone is on the same page for policies and procedures. The conversations also lead to discussion on any weekly trends, as well as updates from Gov. Eric Holcomb.
“We’re taking every precautionary step,” said Dukes. “We have not had a positive test whatsoever, so we feel good that we’re taking every step to keep the inmates and the employees safe.”