As the number of COVID-19 cases in Palm Beach County grows, the number of arrests has fallen. From the period of March 3-31, the 19-day period after the virus was declared a national emergency, there has been a significant drop in the number of people being booked into the county jail compared to the same time last year; there were 35% fewer bookings from 3/3-3/31 of this year than from the same time period in 2019. So far in April, there have been fewer than 40 jail bookings per day in a county with a population of more than 1.5 million people.
Could this be because more people are staying home to avoid spreading — and possibly catching — COVID-19? Law enforcement agencies and criminologists who study criminal justice trends believe there may be more to it.
Palm Beach County Sees a Big Drop in Arrests for Drug Crimes
As soon as COVID-19 was declared a national emergency, the number of arrests in Palm Beach County for drug crimes plunged. There was a decrease of nearly 60% in drug crime arrests from March 3-31, 2020 compared to the same period last year. Authorities arrested 914 people total during those 19 days this year, while last year, a total of 1,411 people were arrested. This year, just 109 people were arrested for drug crimes, while 267 were arrested last year. Higher numbers were also reported in 2018.
The number of arrests for DUI, battery, and other crimes like robbery have remained stable this year compared to last year. However, criminal justice experts are expecting a spike in domestic violence and child abuse crimes as families are required to stay cooped up with each other for weeks.
Why are Fewer Arrests Occurring During COVID-19?
There are likely fewer arrests in Palm Beach County because more people are staying home generally to avoid catching the virus. But, experts believe there may be more reasons for such a sudden drop in arrests. One possibility for why significantly fewer people are being arrested overall could be that there are fewer crimes being reported.
“With so few people on the streets, there are very few ‘eyes’ on the streets. Those eyes are the ones that usually report things, like drugs, to the police,” stated Chris Herrmann, a retired crime analyst and supervisor for the New York Police Department. “Fewer eyes on the street translates to fewer reported crimes to the police.”
How Will the PBC Sheriff’s Department Respond to COVID-19?
Many law enforcement agencies across the country are changing their approach to fighting crime. In Palm Beach, however, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has made it clear that he will not be releasing inmates to reduce the spread of COVID-19 throughout PBC jails — an approach that many agencies are taking to protect inmates. The sheriff stated that “his jails have enough space to house inmates safely.” The public can expect the police response to crimes in PBC will remain the same, including arrests for minor offenses and “victimless” crimes like drug use.
Fighting Criminal Charges During a National Pandemic
This is truly a challenging time for people across the country; but, those facing criminal charges may be entering a more disorganized justice system. If you’ve been accused of a criminal offense such as DUI, robbery, sex crime, or any misdemeanor or felony crime, reach out to the Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel for quality counsel and guidance. Brian Gabriel has helped people throughout Palm Beach County fight criminal charges for more than 30 years.
Attorney Brian P. Gabriel’s extensive experience and dedication to providing personalized attention to each client will help you overcome this uncertain time in your life with the best possible results. Call (561) 622-5575 for a free consultation or complete our contact form to find out how he can help your case.