More local residents staying home through the pandemic has had one positive impact beyond limiting the spread of COVID-19 — it’s cut in half the number of break and enters.
Sarnia Police responded to 60 break-ins between March 17 and the end of May, compared to 117 over the same period last year.
Would-be thieves are thinking twice before moving in, said Inspector Jeff Hodgson.
“People are home more often. We’re just not seeing the empty houses.”
On the other hand, more people at home has also led to friction with neighbours. Noise complaints during the pandemic are up 25%, to 161, and unwanted person and domestic dispute calls have risen slightly.
“People are staying, and trying to party, or their neighbours just have less tolerance,” Hodgson said.
Overall, though, the lockdown has brought about fewer family disputes with less mischief, theft and threatened suicides, police statistics suggest.
Fewer cars out and about town has also meant fewer road accidents. Sarnia’s Collision Reporting Centre typically deals with about 200 collisions a month, but saw just 80 in April and 117 in May, Hodgson said.
Police methods have changed as well.
A call to 911 now includes a six-question pre-screening by dispatch so responding officers have basic health information in hand before arriving at the scene, he said.
And though officers have personal protective equipment available they will sometimes stay in the cruiser and assist over the phone while parked outside to reduce infection risk.
“We’re spending more time at each one of these calls because of the precautions that we have to take,” Hodgson said.
Court hearings are being done via video calls, which adds another time-consuming element to the job, he added.
Some city officers have undergone testing for COVID-19 but none have yet tested positive, Hodgson said.