Domestic violence and child abuse is way up in Mendocino County during the shelter-in-place orders due to the nationwide coronavirus crisis.
According to Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall, in the month of March, compared to March 2019, physical domestic violence is up 25 percent, child abuse cases are up 36 percent and general assaults are up 20 percent. Suicides are up but Kendall did not have a specific figure for that. Verbal domestic abuse, however, appears to be down about 14 percent.
Calls for service in general are also down. Kendall says that in March of 2019 the sheriff’s office had 5,894 calls compared to 4,878 calls in March of this year, a drop of about 18 percent.
Kendall says he thinks that’s largely due to the fact that deputies are out on the streets more nowadays as they are not allowed to be gathered in numbers at the sheriff’s office. They are writing reports in their cars, and staggering times when they absolutely have to be in the office. As a result deputies are seeing more citizens out on the street and are able to answer questions in person that they might have gotten a call about in the past.
“We’re only getting the calls that are really important,” Kendall theorized. Also helping the deputy presence is the fact that with courts closed and video arraignments in place, court bailiffs can serve in areas deputies might have had to be used, like the county compliance task force.
Kendall says that deputies on Monday began wearing masks to go about their duties when interacting with the public. Dispatchers are adding coronavirus questions to their phone interactions with citizens in an attempt to prepare deputies for what to expect when they arrive at the call location.
Deputy protocols also include disinfecting and wiping down their own patrol cars at the beginning of each shift as cars are traded off from one deputy to another.
At the jail, there have been no coronavirus cases or scares, Kendall said, largely because no one sentenced to jail is allowed in the building before being medically examined for symptoms. If symptoms are present the person is sent immediately to the hospital. Also, anyone who goes to the jail for a routine misdemeanor citation and release does it in the parking lot and never enters the building.
Kendall says that local judges, the District Attorney and Public Defender are all cooperating in trying to keep the jail population down — it is currently about 30 percent down. They do that by adjusting jail terms for non-violent offenders, moving them to summer or sometime later in the year when it is hoped the crisis will have eased.
Kendall notes that so far most Mendocino County citizens have been really good about obeying the stay-at-home order, for which he is very grateful. But he notes that there have been cases of surreptitious gatherings like groups of Bay Area people renting local Air B&Bs and hanging out here in Mendocino County, which disturbs him.
Kendall noted that his department started preparing for the coming of the virus back in January and he says the extra time our county has had with only four cases and no reported community spread, has “allowed us to get procedures and orders in place” that he believes have helped contain things.
“People are making a lot of sacrifices,” he said, and he appreciates it. He also wanted to quash one rumor he’s seen in social media where it is claimed that there are Mendocino County residents with coronavirus who were tested in Sonoma County and therefore we don’t have a record of them. That is absolutely untrue, Kendall said. It is the CDC that reports all the test results, not individual counties. Our health officer gets those results directly.
Kendall discussed the efforts of so many older people in this county helping others, even when there’s no crisis and said “the work ethic of retired people” really continues to help keep things moving, even though they are especially vulnerable.
His own deputies and sheriff’s office staff are “hanging in there,” he said, noting that so many sheriff’s office staff are from this area and “we took on this job to help our friends and neighbors.” He himself admits he thought that at this point in his career he’d be dreaming up ways to better solve crime, not dealing with a pandemic emergency.
While he’s hoping a sunny and warm Easter Sunday won’t drive people to gather, his department has not thus far had to issue any tickets to people gathering against the orders.
Kendall said as soon as a deputy sees too many people in one place and asks them to break up and move on, they get immediate and cooperative compliance.
“My advice to everyone is do everything you can to abide by health orders,” Kendall said. “And think about it before you go outside.”
(Courtesy, The Ukiah Daily Journal)