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LVMPD, DA address policing in COVID-19 crisis

Posted: 5:09 PM, Mar 25, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-25 21:18:12-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The Strip is absent of tourists, shoppers flock to businesses with water and toilet paper, and the legal system has been forced to adjust in the age of a world wide pandemic.

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo says his department of roughly 6,000 officers have had to do their fair share of adjusting to continue protecting the public in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

"This is a difficult and unsettling time," Lombardo said, "that being said, it isn't the time to panic."

Lombardo joined District Attorney Steve Wolfson Wednesday to address the changes made to police procedures and prosecution during the crisis.

The court system has seen dramatic changes in response to the disease's spread.

RELATED: Las Vegas Justice Court issues COVID-19 procedures

"The criminal justice system is still running," Wolfson said.

Wolfson did acknowledge that significant changes and delays have arisen in prosecutions.

He said prosecution has shifted its focus to violent crimes and delayed processing of minor crimes as the team works remotely and often with a skeleton crew.

"It doesn't mean we're not going to prosecute," Wolfson said of the minor crimes.

The office would also aggressively pursue any criminals trying to take advantage of the pandemic.

"As the district attorney I want to make one thing clear," Wolfson said, "people who think this time of crisis is a good time to take advantage of others through scams or other criminal activities will face tough prosecution."

Wolfson said in extreme cases they would charge and prosecute nonessential businesses ignoring the governor's order to close.

RELATED: What are essential, nonessential services in Nevada?

Lombardo said the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has changed its habits and procedures to better protect the public since the shut-down order was issued.

"Due to the shut-down of the tourist corridor, we have developed resources to help maintain the security of our crucial infrastructure," he said.

The force has been directed to provide extra security at businesses facing crowds and food distribution sites.

The officers have also been directed to change their protocols for arrests to keep the jail population in control and avoid the spread of coronavirus at the Clark County Detention Center.

Officers will no longer make arrests for misdemeanor traffic warrants or child support warrants, and they have more discretion in making arrests for low level crimes.

Lombardo said one inmate that had been released to UMC tested positive for coronavirus after spending approximately 11 days in the jail, and two other inmates have been placed in negative pressure isolation cells.

"There have been no reported cases of COVID-19 cases within the LVMPD at this time," Lombardo said adding that 28 members of the department have been placed on self-isolation out of an abundance of caution.

He said all officers have enough protective gear for 60 days.

Crime rates have remained steady.

"As I speak, there has been no significant changes in what we're seeing in reference to crime," Lombardo said.

He said all calls for service have dropped by 5%, and Aggravated Assault cases, which contain domestic violence calls, has risen by 3%.

Both men called on help from the public to maintain peace and order until the coronavirus pandemic abates.

"It is a fact that in uncertain times our biggest enemy is fear," Lombardo said, "but Nevadans have proved that in other tough times we pull together in times of crisis."