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OSWEGO – Calls for service and police reports have decreased significantly for Oswego police in the last few weeks as opposed to around the same time last year amid the Illinois stay-at-home order due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
Oswego Police Chief Jeff Burgner said he has been keeping an eye on calls for service and incident reports data ever since the police department began to change the way they operate in light of the coronavirus pandemic. He said there has been a 34% decrease in calls for service for the first three weeks of March 2020 as opposed to in 2019, and there also has been a larger decrease in actual police reports taken.
"Those are down approximately 21%," Burgner said.
According to Oswego police data, there have been 207 total incidents from March 21 to March 30, 2020. That's less than half of the total number from the same time last year, which was 494.
Burgner said officers are still taking reports, though they have modified their reporting taking procedures. For example, he said, a lot of reports are now being taken over the phone as opposed to an officer taking the report in person, as per usual.
“Traditionally, we would have dispatched a car to that location, whether that was a residence or business in town,” Burgner said.
Burgner said he hasn't seen any notable differences between March 21 and March 30 this year and the same time last year regarding domestic-related incidents. There were three of those incidents this year as opposed to one last year, according to Oswego police data.
However, Burgner said, Oswego police have seen a decrease in crime reports from this year compared to last year.
Compared to the first few weeks of this March and around the same time last year, Burgner said, there has been a 57% decrease in Part 1 crimes, including burglaries, robberies and other violent crimes, this year from last year. He said Part 2 crimes, which include less serious crimes like thefts and other financially-related incidents, have decreased by 44%.
Burgner said he thinks some of those decreases has to do with people being told they should be staying at home per Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker's stay-at-home order, which has now been extended to April 30.
“So I think the less people you have out in your community, the odds are your crime is going down as well,” Burgner said.
According to Oswego police data, there have been no traffic stops between March 21 and March 30 this year. Last year around the same time, there were 324 traffic stops.
Burgner said police officers are doing what they can to limit unneeded exposure with the public.
“They have given guidance to make sure that, if they're doing stops, they’re for pretty serious violations or for things they don’t have an option on but to do enforcement,” Burgner said.
When avoiding exposure isn't an option, though, there are protocols in place for officers, Burgner said. Officers have access to personal protective equipment, or PPE, including goggles, masks, smocks and gloves, he said, and dispatchers have provisions in place where they will make officers aware of when they will need to use that equipment on a particular call, like going to an address of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Along with that, Burgner said, officers are cleaning and disinfecting cars between every shift change, along with staff amping up disinfecting procedures in common areas of the police department.
Burgner said there have been no Oswego police officers or other personnel who have tested positive for COVID-19. However, he said, there is a communication strategy for notifying the public should that happen.
In the meantime, Burgner said, Oswego police continue to take part in regular correspondence with Illinois State Police, along with other police chiefs and fire officials in Kendall County and the KenCom dispatch director, regarding best practices moving forward. At this point, he said, it's not like officers will be pulling people over if there is any suspicion of anyone violating the order.
“We’re all about education and compliance at this point,” Burgner said.
The good news is that Burgner thinks the people of Oswego have been complying with the governor's stay-at-home order for the most part, he said.
Times are uncertain for everybody and the police department will continue to do their best to serve the public while protecting their officers, as long as everyone can practice patience and continue to comply with the governor's order, Burgner said.
"I think that’s going to be a big part of our success, patience with ... our situation,” Burgner said.