The Delaware County Common Pleas and Delaware Municipal courts have scaled back operations because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but local law enforcement continues unabated.

The municipal court announced it has delayed all trials and most criminal matters until at least April 20.

It still has time, however, to handle new crimes.

“We are open for essential hearings, including hearings dealing with incarcerated and arrested individuals,” said Judge Marianne Hemmeter. “We continue to hear matters related to arrested individuals.”

The common-pleas court announced its activities generally are limited to peoples whose legal business involves emergencies and time-sensitive matters.

Capt. Adam Moore said the Delaware Police Department likewise remains open for business.

“We have made some adjustments to limit nonessential personal interactions for the safety of our personnel and our citizens – for example, answering inquiries via email or taking reports over the telephone,” he said. “However, based on the nature of our work, this is not always possible and we want to be clear: Our officers remain vigilant, are committed to our community’s safety and will respond when called upon.”

Moore said when it comes to arrests, “officers will continue to balance the totality of the circumstances – the type of crime, the risk to the public and the established bond schedule – in the field and issue a summons or make a physical arrest as appropriate.”

When an arrest is required, the arrested individual will be incarcerated, he said.

The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office will put those accused of violent and serious crimes in the Delaware County jail for the safety of the community, said Tracy Whited, the sheriff’s community-relations manager.

Such incidents will be treated on a case-by-case basis, working in partnership with the courts and judges, she said.

“We are not bringing into the jail any new nonviolent, lower-lever-misdemeanor folks,” Whited said. “Deputies are issuing a summons to appear, and we’re using a COVID-19-specific health screening in addition to our regular screening, and other specific precautions due to COVID-19.”

Whited said for people already in jail awaiting hearings or sentencing, the sheriff’s office has been expediting the process, working closely with the courts and judges.

“We have ramped up the number of closed-circuit daily televised video arraignment hearings,” she said. “These were inmates who were in on minor misdemeanors such as probation violations.

“It’s the same process, just expedited,” she said. “These folks would’ve been released from jail at some point in the near future. They are just moving through the process at a faster pace to reduce potential exposure to (or) spreading of COVID.”

It also appears coronavirus has put a dent in crime, Whited said.

“Our daily inmate average in recent months has been 220, and we’re now at 150 – a 32% decrease, which is very typical right now among numerous other Ohio county jails,” she said.

Changes in Delaware

The city of Delaware also has announced changes because of the pandemic, said Lee Yoakum, the city’s community-affairs coordinator.

All city buildings are closed to visitors, including City Hall, its ground floor utility-billing office and income-tax office, the planning and building department, the Mingo Park Indoor Recreation Center, the public-works building and all fire stations. The police-station lobby remains open.

The Community Center YMCA also is closed.

City Council has canceled its regularly scheduled April meetings but might schedule a special meeting if needed. All other city board and commission meetings have been canceled through April.

Residents are encouraged to pay utility bills electronically using delawareohio.net.

Bill payments, as well as tax payments and paper tax returns, also may be deposited into the red dropbox at City Hall.

Electronic filing is encouraged for city tax returns using delawareohio.net.

Tax assistance is available at 740-203-1225 during weekday business hours.

Income-tax returns remain due April 15. Tax payments, as well as first- and second-quarter 2020 estimated tax payments, may be deferred to July 15 without penalty or interest charges.

Water disconnections are being temporarily suspended for March. Anyone who has been disconnected can call 740-203-1250 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays to arrange water-service reconnection.

All city outdoor parks were open as of March 25, but Hidden Valley Golf Course is closed until at least April 30. Park restrooms are closed.

Planning and building department permits may be dropped off in the blue bin at the west entrance of the COhatch building, 18 E. William St. Those dropping off plans should call the planning department at 740-203-1600.

Payments should not be left in the bin.

Building-inspection requests may be emailed to planninganddevelopment@delawareohio.net.

editorial@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNews