LLANO, Texas (KXAN) — The Llano Police Department is handling calls and responding to crimes and traffic accidents differently after a spike in COVID-19 cases.
The department originally implemented COVID-19 response protocols in March, at the start of the pandemic. But as cases went down and businesses and schools opened up, those protocols were relaxed in August. Three officers also tested positive for the virus, impacting the day-to-day operations for the department of eight.
“We started interacting with the public more, and we became a little laxed, so we wanted to go back to the protocol and make sure we are providing an example to the public,” Llano Police Chief Mike Scoggins explained.
In this Facebook post, the department explained how officers will be limiting their contact with the public. Officers will:
- take reports over the phone unless it is absolutely necessary to respond to the scene (violent crimes in progress, etc.),
- will not respond to minor traffic accidents,
- encourage citizens to file their own accident report through the TxDOT website,
- will only provide animal control services if a bite or attack takes place. Officers will not respond to pick up stray dogs, cats or wild animals caught in traps.
“We’re still responding to all emergencies like violent crimes, robberies, assaults and family violence offenses,” Scoggins said. “In reference to warrants, we are arresting felony offenses, and if they’re misdemeanors we will contact the jail before we arrest.”
The re-implementation of the COVID-19 protocols come as Llano County residents like Ann Matlack, see a spike in cases. She’s now seeing more people wearing masks as they enter her shop on West Main Street, in the heart of downtown Llano.
“Just the last few weeks it’s [COVID-19] has just been rampant, just like wildfire, so that’s put a strain on everyone in the community,” said Matlack.
Right now, Llano has more than 130 active cases of the coronavirus and close to another hundred cases are probable, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Just a month ago, Llano County experienced 245 cases, now that number is at 394 overall. This comes as health officials stopped putting contact tracing and hospitalizations on its bi-weekly report on Monday.
Matlack hopes the police department’s protocols will help in the fight against COVID-19 while still keeping the community safe.
KXAN reached out to several local police departments to see how they’ve changed their response during the pandemic.
In March, the Austin Police Department released a list of new protocols. It included no longer responding to minor crashes or calls that can be addressed online or over the phone. APD confirmed Thursday night the policy remains in place.
The Travis County Sheriff’s Office tells KXAN it relaxed some restrictions a couple of months ago because of complaints over reckless driving. The sheriff’s office said it’s their first responsibility to protect the public, so leaders left it up to deputies on how they approach traffic stops. The sheriff’s office says it’s still encouraging deputies to wear masks and social distance when possible.