Alexandria Police Chief Michael L. Brown says there has been a marginal increase in domestic violence calls for service over the last three weeks, and is concerned that Gov. Ralph Northam’s stay at home order will mean a more significant uptick.
“We’re not seeing a real huge spike, but as time goes on the pressures inside the homes of the residents may increase as everyone’s now sheltering in place,” Brown told ALXnow. “We’re very concerned about the stress that causes within the household or within the home and we want to make sure that our community gets the assistance it needs to get through this process.”
Brown added, “We would rather do that than respond to a call for service involving some kind of a fight or domestic violence issue.”
The city’s Sexual Assault Center and Domestic Violence Program are open, and hotlines are available 24/7 at 703-684-7273 [Sexual Assault Hotline] or 703-746-4911 [Domestic Violence Hotline]. Online support is also available with The National Sexual Assault Online Hotline.
There are currently 44 cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria, and no officers have exhibited symptoms yet, Brown said. Additionally, no one has yet been charged with violating the governor’s order, although police have been dispatched to speak with a number business owners who have illegally opened. Police have also prioritized non-emergency calls and taking care of as many as possible via phone to limit exposure to officers.
“It’s been a very stressful period for our folks. So far right now we’re doing fine and we hope the trend continues, but this is an invisible problem that we hope doesn’t affect our people,” he said. “We’re meeting our calls for service, and we hope that trend continues and we certainly hope that everyone uses the direction given to us by the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], which we promulgated to our folks, and that is social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and the like.”
Brown said that officers have been issued initial supplies of personal protective equipment and that the department is working on getting more.
“It’s a challenge. We have backorders in place working through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to get additional assets,” he said. “Those are all being prioritized for medical professionals as well as first responders. We have a supply that’s already been issued we have a small reserve and we’re hoping that that will get us through until we get the additional equipment that we need.”
Brown said flexibility will be key for his officers in the days ahead, and that in his experience the only thing this pandemic comes close to is during the 1980s when he was a California Highway Patrol officer.
“I think the closest thing in my career that I recall is back in 1983, in California when the AIDS virus appeared, and there were a lot of unknowns with regards to that when it first came out, and we were always very concerned about protecting our law enforcement personnel, but this is different,” he said. “This is a different kind of virus, and it’s transmitted differently. It presents unique challenges for all of us first responders in terms of protecting our people and still making sure that we are able to respond to the needs of the community.”
Photo via Alexandria Police Department/Facebook