Local law enforcement agencies have been seeing trends recently in their calls and are working to keep the public informed on how to remain safe.
With more people staying home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office has been receiving many calls about domestic disturbances and general confrontations. Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond said the office has had to arrest a number of people for assault, stalking and related activities.
“People don't need to go that extent,” Bond told the Democrat. “I understand it’s difficult, we’ve got a little cabin fever that’s going on and are not able to get out and do recreational activities like many of us would normally be doing at this time of the year.
“Nerves are strained as well, it’s an emotional time with the pandemic that’s going on,” he continued. “(However), I want to encourage people that the best thing to do is stop and think about the situation rather than letting it escalate and get into a situation where law enforcement has to be called.”
The Sedalia Police Department has also seen an increase in parties and disturbances associated with them. Sgt. Joshua Howell said he believes it is due to the weather being nicer and other establishments being closed.
“With the bars mostly being closed up until here recently, I think that’s probably why we’re seeing that increase,” Howell explained. “Some of that is just seasonal. This is the time of year where we start to see more get-togethers and hangouts on the weekends but I think it might be amplified by the fact that bars weren’t open so people have nowhere to get together and socially drink other than people’s yards.”
Another concern for the sheriff’s office has been calls about suspicious behavior. Bond said with the stay-at-home order the office saw a “dramatic reduction” in burglaries, thefts, and property crimes. Recently though there has been an “uptick” in those incidents but the bigger issue is calls for suspicious behavior.
“People typically out on foot trying car doors to see if they’re locked,” Bond explained. “We’ve even had some calls of people walking into other people’s garages. Just people that have been working in the garage or something and then all of sudden they find somebody in their garage that they don’t know.”
Bond said it is not unusual to see an uptick in these kinds of calls when the weather warms up. He provided some tips on ways residents can keep their belongings and property safe.
“Just like we’ve been conditioning ourselves to protect our bodies by not touching our faces and washing our hands and that type of activity, we need to make sure that we’re diligent in securing our properties as well,” Bond advised. “Locking your car doors, of course, if you're going to be working outside or on the farm, you want to make sure that you’re shutting the gates or closing the garage doors. Certainly locking the house.”
Bond also said to make sure surveillance and alarm systems are in good working order and requested people provide tips to the sheriff’s office about criminal or suspicious activity they are seeing so deputies know what to look for and where.
“It’s always good to be a good neighbor,” Bond said. “We have several neighborhood watch organizations throughout the county. People are watching for others’ houses so if something doesn't look quite right then it’s always good to either try to give your neighbor a call to make sure everything is OK or to call law enforcement. Obviously we don’t encourage people to confront others if they see something suspicious like that it’s better to let us do that. Keeping us mindful.”
With more people heading out with the nice weather and COVID-19 restrictions easing, congested traffic and vehicle accidents are other things to be aware of. According to Howell, the department saw a decline in accidents recently due to people staying at home but have begun to see an increase in traffic congestion. Howell reported SPD saw 227 accidents from March 1 to May in 2018 and 216 in 2019 in the same time frame. From March 1 to May 26 of 2020, there had been 126 although May numbers are not complete.
“Obviously we have seen traffic increase recently,” Howell said. “May numbers aren’t in all the way yet so I can’t say for sure that we haven’t seen an increase in accidents but so far it’s looking like about an average amount of accidents for May.
However, Bond said the county had seen a large number of vehicle accidents in the last week with several fatalities in both Pettis and adjoining counties in the past few days.
“This is even on the heels of the Memorial Day weekend, typically the holiday weekend typically where we see an uptick and increase in the number of traffic accidents and traffic fatalities,” Bond said. “However this week has been very unusual for that…
“People need to drive defensively,” he added. “They need to watch out for other drivers and make sure to slow down and wear their seat belt and make sure that they take those steps that are necessary to safely get to their destinations.”