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Police making fewer small-time crime arrests amid coronavirus pandemic

Police making fewer small-time crime arrests amid coronavirus pandemic
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Police are making fewer arrests across the country as the coronavirus pandemic presents new obstacles for law enforcement.

Authorities have been focusing more on breaking up large public gatherings, while putting their own health at risk, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

"You can't exercise social distancing when you're taking police action," Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told the newspaper. "It's part of the risk we take."

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Three police officers in Houston tested positive for coronavirus after getting exposed while on duty, Acevedo tweeted this week.

Police chiefs in Los Angeles and Philadelphia are instructing officers not to arrest anyone for minor offenses at this time to limit the spread of the virus.

"We are encouraging citing and releasing individuals for low-level, nonviolent offenses, and that is so we limit everybody's exposure," Josh Rubenstein, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department, told the Journal.

New York City, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, has been one of the most challenging cities for authorities during the pandemic.

New York reported that 236 police employees have tested positive for the virus, with 8.9 percent of officers calling in sick Wednesday — three times higher than average days, the Journal reported.

If cities with smaller police departments end up being hard-hit by the virus, absences could strain police forces.

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"If you've got a department of 50 officers and you get 10 of them that get it, that's really a difficult issue," said Tom Manger, a retired police chief for Montgomery County, Md., told the Journal.

Manger said most departments were receiving fewer calls and crime rates are plummeting because "no one's out."

Crime rates in New York City were down last week compared with the same period a year ago. However, car thefts saw a 50 percent increase.

In Chicago, both violent and property crimes were slightly below normal levels compared to previous years. Dallas reported that violent and property crimes fell last week compared with the week before.