Sheriff William Honsal took a few minutes to answer questions from the media today. Below is a list of questions (with timestamps, in case you want to jump to the relevant section of video, above) and summaries of his answers.
0:00: How is the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office handling calls during the outbreak? Are you limiting face-to-face interactions?
Honsal says yes, law enforcement throughout the county is limiting interactions with the public. HCSO personnel is doing a lot of reports over the phone and encouraging residents to use the office’s online reporting software. Meanwhile, the office is still responding to serious and violent crimes and maintaining 24-hour coverage of the county.
1:40: Is the county seeing an increase in crime during the shelter-in-place order?
“Actually, we’ve seen a decrease in calls for service and crimes reported to us,” Honsal says. “Even criminals right now are sheltering in place, it seems.” Law enforcement officers are out patrolling, looking at commercial businesses that may be vulnerable, he says.
2:40: Have we seen an increase in domestic violence or suicide calls? How does the office handle those?
There’s a lot of tension and anxiety right now, Honsal says, adding that there are resources for people who need help, including the Humboldt County mental health crisis line. The shelter-in-place order doesn’t prevent people from taking a walk to clear their heads and take a deep breath, he adds.
4:00: Do we have any plans to institute a curfew?
Last week’s declaration of a local emergency gives Honsal that power, he says, but he has not yet done so — nor will he unless people refuse to comply with the shelter-in-place order.
5:00: How many inmates has the jail released due to COVID-19?
“Right now our jail population is reduced by over 100,” Honsal says. Some low-level offenders were released, and yesterday the Judicial Council of California ruled that they are going to reduce the bail for a lot of offenses to zero, he says.
In the meantime, inmates being booked are screened “a lot lot differently now.” A nurse is present in the “sally port” outside the booking area to ensure suspects don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms, Honsal notes. Serious and/or violent offenders are housed in a quarantined area of the correctional facility for 14 days, after which they’re put into the general population.
7:00: What is the Sheriff’s Office doing to help the homeless?
Those who are 65 and older or otherwise vulnerable are the priority, in terms of finding housing and other resources, Honsal says. “There’s a hotel here in Eureka that we have actually secured rooms [in]. There’s rooms throughout the county that they are securing right now to house those people … ,” Honsal says.
He closes with some words of reassurance, saying he appreciates the public’s overall spirit and cooperation with the shelter-in-place order. “We’ll get through all this together,” he says.