By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily
With few exceptions, police call volumes are down during the pandemic in Wyoming’s two largest cities, Casper and Cheyenne police departments reported.
In Casper, vehicle break-ins skyrocketed since March 16, but assaults, patrol arrests and restraining order violations dropped significantly, said Rebekah Ladd, the Casper Police Department’s public information officer.
“The biggest thing we’re seeing are those auto burglaries,” Ladd said. “We’ve seen several homeowner’s security videos with people walking down the street pulling on car handles until they find one open.”
From March 16 through April 17, calls labeled by dispatch as auto burglaries increased 18% and calls labeled burglary non-residential, which can include cars, sheds or outbuildings, increased 100%, she said.
Unlocked cars grant criminals unprecedented access to a number of valuables, and in some cases, firearms, Ladd said.
“Criminals aren’t likely stealing firearms to go hunting,” she said. “The No. 1 thing you can do is lock your car. In this way, we can literally disarm criminals.”
Overall calls for service in Casper were down 30%, according to Casper PD data. Calls labeled assault by dispatch were down 32%, residential burglary decreased 32% and Family Violence Protection Act calls, which include restraining order violations, were down 50%.
Patrol arrests also decreased with juvenile arrests dropping 82% and adult arrests falling by 51%.
“We’re really proud of our community,” Ladd said. “Our call volume is down significantly. We’re really seeing people listening to state officials and taking the advice to stay home.”
About 175 miles southeast in the Capital, David Inman, public information officer for the Cheyenne Police Department, said his department also experienced a decrease in call volume.
Inman did not have data on hand at the time of the interview, but anecdotally, he said Cheyenne has not seen a rise in burglaries of any type.
“Our violent crime — we don’t have much anyway — has gone down as far as assaults,” Inman said. “Domestic dispute calls have gone up, but that is just calls. Those don’t always indicate an assault. In many cases, it’s just two people yelling at each other loud enough for the neighbors to call us.”
Shoplifting remained at normal levels throughout the pandemic, but it was the outlier, he said.
“We’re associating the decreases with people staying inside more,” Inman said.
As COVID-19 spreads throughout the state, both Casper and Cheyenne police departments reported they are approaching call responses with cautionary measures, such as face masks and medical gloves.