Red Deer RCMP are paying extra attention to the hundreds of city businesses shuttered by COVID-19.
“We’re working very closely with private security and doing extra patrols in some of these more vulnerable areas, like where the businesses are closed downtown or in the industrial areas,” said Supt. Gerald Grobmeier, the detachment’s commander.
So-called suppression teams were set up in mid-March, and are not only focusing on closed businesses, but also on those that are still drawing people, such as Walmart, grocery stores, drugstores and banks.
“We’re there as well to provide that calming presence to people and also to provide advice to the business owners to help them out with best practices.
“These teams have been everywhere in the city,” he said, adding they are spreading the word on what security approaches have been working for businesses.
The Red Deer detachment has divided its shifts into smaller self-contained groups to limit the spread of a COVID-19 infection.
“When a watch works during the day, as opposed to working as one big group, we have them physically separated into three smaller groups,” said Grobmeier.
“Should there be an exposure, it will be to a much smaller group, as opposed to 20 or 25 people all at once.”
The detachment has been closed to the public to reduce the chances of infections spreading.
To date, the detachment’s 174 officers have been able to do their jobs.
In some hard-hit U.S. cities, CORVID-19 has decimated police departments. One-fifth of Detroit police officers are staying home and the 38,000-strong New York Police Department has a similar percentage off sick.
“Actually, our situation and our levels are very good at this time,” said Grobmeier.
“We’re not going to give any hints to our ‘clients’ out there, but I can say we have very, very few people who are presently off due to self-quarantine.”
Dispatchers taking calls now ask a series of questions, such as whether anyone at the scene has travelled recently or is showing COVID symptoms.
“We get that information before our police officers are dispatched to a call, so they know what they’re getting into and they can make preparations, if need be.”
All officers have the personal protective equipment, such as masks, glasses and gowns, that they would need should they be faced with someone who is potentially infected, said Grobmeier.
He said so far, the pandemic has not led to a spike in crimes, such as break-ins.
Some observers have voiced concerns that domestic violence could increase because of Albertans’ stress of being laid off and cooped up at home. So far, local police are not seeing any spikes in those calls either.
“That is certainly a concern that we have and we have been monitoring it very closely,” said the superintendent.