Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins On Policing During The Pandemic
When the coronavirus swept across the Northeast, every individual, business and govenment official had to make adjustments to their daily lives and schedules. The Albany Police Department is no exception.
Policing has to go on during the pandemic, even if schools and most businesses are closed. With New York on "pause," along with social distancing and stay home advisories, Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins says the force is experiencing a significant drop in calls.
"Somewhere in the range of 30 or 40% reduction, but we're seeing some increases in some certain areas, we're seeing an increase in domestic related calls. Other crimes, violent crimes, they're fairly stable at this point. We see some spikes every once in a while, but looking at the comparison between this year and last year, it's fairly stable. But one thing that we are keeping our eye on right now is the increase in our domestic related calls. And last we looked at the comparison from this year to last year, we noticed that there's a 35 or 40% increase in the amount of domestic related calls. So we're keeping our eyes on that, and working with some of the social agencies in the city, getting some information out to our families and other people in this community about how they can function and avoid some of those types of issues."
The Albany County Crime Victim & Sexual Violence Center encourages anyone experiencing domestic abuse to call the county’s 24-hour Sexual Assault hotline at (518) 447-7716.
Hawkins says officers are being kept as safe as possible: they are complying with social distancing protocol, avoiding person-to-person contact... "So right now what we've done is instituted a policy where we only respond to emergency calls or calls that involve crimes in progress or domestic related calls, calls related to vulnerable populations, such as minors and in the elderly, and serious motor vehicle accidents. So those types of calls, we're still responding to in person. But with some of the or all of the minor costs of service, we're asking the public to initiate phone call reports for those so that we can limit the contact, person to person contact between officers and members of the public. And this is really to protect both, you know, protect the officers from having exposure during this period of time, but also to protect the members of the public from exposure, unnecessary exposure from officers face to face as well. And so that's working out pretty good."
Hawkins notes APD staffers and officers have been given personal protective equipment. "With hand sanitizers, sanitizing wipes, facemask,, making sure that we are cleaning and disinfecting our work areas on a fairly frequent basis. You know, having officers writing in single cars when possible is something that's important to us at this point. And, you know, our briefings... yes, historically is we've had briefings where we will have 15, 20 officers or more sometimes in our roll call rooms for our roll calls. And so now we're staggering those roll calls. And in a lot of cases, if weather permitting, we're having those roll calls outside so we can have the appropriate social spacing and social distancing during those. So we're doing that and number of other things. It's a very challenging time for us, as it is for the first responders and other individuals working in the medical field and in other people who are right on the front lines of this but so far, it's working out well for us.”
City Hall says four Albany police officers normally assigned to the now-shuttered public schools are now engaged in promoting safe health practices for young people and assisting in food deliveries.