Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – As society muddles through the Coronavirus revolution redefining how we live, the dreadful disease has taken a toll on the economy, the social schedule and so many more previously routine aspects of society – including crime.
As an unintended consequence of the societal shutdown, and with exceptions, lawbreaking has dialed back.
Since March 19 – the date that mandatory shelter-in-place orders took hold – calls for Arcata Police Department (APD) service have declined across a range of categories.
“There’s still crime,” reported Police Chief Brian Ahearn. But overall calls for service are markedly down.
• Assault and battery: - 33 percent
• Theft: – 60 percent
• Unwanted subjects: – 21 percent
• Traffic/parking: – 70 percent
• Disturbances: – 34 percent
• Juvenile crime: – 75 percent
• Encampments: – 62 percent
• 911 calls: – 55 percent
• Drunk in public: – 53 percent
• Alarm calls: – 50 percent
One category of calls for service is up, Ahearn said. That’s complaints of restraining order and child custody violations. One reason is that the latter are often schedule-based, and with daily routines disrupted, so are patterns of compliance.
But despite concerns about cabin fever triggering or exacerbating domestic disputes, those show no significant change, Ahearn said.
Ahearn said Arcata residents are by and large observing proper social distancing guidelines, although “that’s not to say there weren’t ‘letter of the law’ violations,” he said. In those cases, APD officers are acting more as “ambassadors”
“We’re continuing to do education and ask for voluntary compliance,” Ahearn said. “There are not a lot of people outside. Public areas are empty, as they should be.”
He noted the recent pause in new reported COVID-19 cases as preliminary proof that the measures are proving effective. “It’s working,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to halt transmission.”
That includes measures to help the homeless population minimize exposure. Two city-owned parking lots have been designated as campsites where proper spacing can be observed – at Seventh and G streets and at the Intermodal Transit Facility.
There, the city is providing porta-potties and hand-washing stations, while Arcata House Partnership (AHP) is supplying wraparound services, including tents, sleeping bags, cots, food and more.
The Arcata Community Center had become an unofficial campsite for many, some of whom had previously camped in the wooded area between the complex and Samoa Boulevard. Under the extraordinary circumstances, the city wasn’t enforcing camping codes there.
“It’s a Community Center for everybody in the community, including those that are unsheltered,” Ahearn said.
Many campers have since migrated to officially sanctioned tent sites in the city parking lots.
Scammers not so heroic
Sunday, APD received a fraud report from the Valley Azteca Restaurant, located in the Valley West Shopping Center. The scam consisted of a fake online ordering webpage for the restaurant, through a website named “Order Hero.”
The webpage contained accurate restaurant information including phone number, address and actual menu items. Customers accessed this false website through Google.com which appeared as “Aztecavalley.site.”
Customers provided credit card information through the website at the time of ordering and when they arrived at the restaurant to pick up their food, they learned no such online ordering services existed.
APD cautions the community when ordering food and other products on-line and recommends verification of services through the business before placing an order, especially when using a new or unknown service provider.
Anyone with information is asked to contact APD at (707) 822-2424.