Criminal Justice System Braces for Challenges Due to Coronavirus

Criminal Justice system braces for corona virus versus crooks

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The first Dallas Police officer to test positive for Covid 19 is assigned to the Northeast substation. Three coworkers have been placed in quarantine for observations to see if they develop symptoms after the positive test. It comes as the criminal justice system braces for new challenges as the result of corona virus.

National Latino Law Enforcement Organization Dallas Chapter President George Aranda said public safety people are on the front line facing this pandemic.

“We have families. We have kids. We have daycare issues and bills just like everybody else. So, while your typical civilian is worried about what they’re going to do, we’re also worried about coming into contact with individuals that are, that may be contagious or infected by Covid,” Aranda said.

Popular Oak Cliff restaurant La Calle Doce, which has been forced to close the dining room, helped provide take-out meals for first responders Thursday. Aranda’s organization teamed up with the restaurant to provide 530 meals.

“We’re picking up half the tab,” he said.

Closed restaurants and businesses could be an enticing target for criminals.  Senior citizens fearful about the virus could also be prey for fraud. 

“Everyone seems to be distracted with the corona virus,” said Tarleton State University Criminal Justice Expert Alex Del Carmen. Everyone is worried about where the next toilet paper is going to be available, more so than who is the biggest criminal in town.”

Dallas Police Crime figures for the year so far through Wednesday support the notion that criminals are not accepting recommendations for social distancing to halt the spread of disease.

Aggravated assault not connected to family violence is up 38.96%. Business burglary is up 14.99%. Residential burglary is up 10.00%.  Crimes by false pretense or swindle are up 32.78%.

“What we’re trying to see is, exactly where the criminal element is going to find the vulnerabilities of the population during the corona crisis,” Del Carmen said.

There is an opposite concern about putting too many people in jail, where social distancing is difficult to achieve and where prisoners cannot make choices for themselves.

“It is a concern to your typical patrol officer,” Aranda said. “Do we need to make this arrest right now? Can it wait? Or can it be an offense be filed at a later date.”

At a special Dallas County Commissioners meeting Thursday, Sheriff Marian Brown said an extra 300 jail beds are being prepared at the George Allen Civil Courthouse. Spacing has been increased, visitation has been limited and procedures changed in an effort to keep disease out of the jail.

It has not been successful at the large jail in New York City.

“Rikers, we know there’s been a positive test. We also know some guards have also tested positive. We also know some inmates have tested positive throughout the United States,” Del Carmen said. “This is obviously a vulnerable population.”

Like everything else about corona virus, people in the criminal justice system expect to see the situation get worse before it improves.

“Within a few days, within a few weeks, your typical civilian will run out of money will run out of food,” Aranda said. “It’s a big concern to your first responders what’s to come.”

The leaders of every City of Dallas department, including police and fire, have been told to make plans for delivering service in the event that large portions of the workforce are sick or quarantined.  

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