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Law enforcement continues services with extra precautions

As COVID-19 cases increase daily, local law enforcement agencies continue to offer many of the same services they normally do, but delivery of those services looks a little bit different.

Across the board, departments are asking the public to remember that 911 should only be used for true emergencies such as vehicle wrecks, serious injuries and medical issues, or major crimes where someone’s life or property is in immediate danger. Other non-emergency situations can be reported to regular phone numbers listed for each department.

BEAUFORT COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

Since March 23, a sign on the door at the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office has let visitors know that the lobby is closed, and they need to call 252-946-7111 for the time being for non-emergency services.

“We’re trying to heed the advice of public health and CDC officials are giving,” said BCSO Chief Deputy Charlie Rose. “We’re trying to minimize the amount of contact, especially physical contact, that we have. That’s twofold, one, so we can try to stay healthy, but we also don’t want to carry something from one group and take it to another.”

Anyone needing to obtain copies of reports, applications for concealed carry, purchase permits or to speak with a deputy can call the non-emergency numbers. Fingerprinting is suspended for the time being. Rose said that the BCSO will continue to provide welfare checks when necessary.

“We always ask that (callers) exhaust their avenues to get in touch,” Rose said. “Call relatives, call friends and call neighbors, but if they can’t get in touch with someone, make contact with us, and we will do welfare checks on folks as we can. … If someone out there feels they need services from the Sheriff’s Office or law enforcement services, make the call. Call the administration line, or if they feel it’s an emergency, call 911.”

BELHAVEN POLICE DEPARTMENT

Like other departments, the Belhaven Police Department is also taking extra precautions. BPD Chief Fred Clingenpeel says officers are equipped with some personal protective equipment in cases where they might have to assist EMS units in responding to calls.

The department is also working to help elderly town residents by picking up groceries and prescriptions if they can’t leave the house or don’t have anyone to run those errands for them.

“We do have our ‘Are You OK?’ Program that we’ve had for 10 years,” Clingenpeel said. “We’re still calling the elderly residents who are on that list. Being a close-knit community, occasionally, someone will come up to us and ask, ‘Have you heard from so and so?’ and we’ll go and check up on them. We’re not so big that we can’t be more personable and offer those types of programs, where other agencies may be stressed because of case loads.”

The Belhaven PD can be reached for non-emergency situations at 252-943-2242 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.

CHOCOWINITY POLICE DEPARTMENT

In Chocowinity, CPD Chief Ralph Whitehurst says officers are practicing social distancing whenever possible and taking other precautions.

“We are continuing to conduct welfare checks, as always, on the elderly and people that request this service while out of town or when in need of checking on family members that are requested by relatives that live out of town,” Whitehurst said. “Our interactions with EMS calls have been suspended, unless it is a call that justifies law enforcement help or intervention, as deemed necessary by EMS personnel. Officers have been given more PPE, such as gloves, face masks and other protective clothing, so they will have them available if the need arises when interacting with the public or on calls for service.”

The CPD non-emergency number is 252-946-2882.

WASHINGTON POLICE DEPARTMENT

Finally, the Washington Police Department is also doing things a little differently. According to information shared by the city, the WPD will continue to respond to all emergency calls for service, while taking non-emergency reports over the phone.

Non-emergency calls, including fraud, prior assaults that occurred days before being reported and other non-life threatening issues, can be reported to 252-946-1444. The WPD has also suspended non-essential services such as fingerprinting, responding to animal complaints unless the animal is vicious and vehicle unlocks unless a person is in danger. The WPD is closed to the public, though there is an intercom at the main entrance if needed.

“We’re still providing the same professional level of services,” Washington Police and Fire Services Director Stacy Drakeford said. “By focusing on true emergencies, we’re able to make sure if the need arises, we’re able to respond as we need to respond.”

Drakeford said the WPD would provide welfare checks as needed.