Over the first third of 2020, which includes the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the New Albany Police Department has recorded a small increase in total offenses reported as compared to last year.

Total offenses for 2020 through April 22 number 76, an increase from the 61 total offenses that were reported during the same period in 2019, police Chief Greg Jones said.

For context, the department recorded 231 total offenses in the 2018 calendar year and 259 in 2019, according to figures provided by Jones.

Jones said slight increases in domestic incidents and thefts from commercial buildings account for most of the overall increase. Still, he said, fluctuations in incidents always occur year to year.

Domestic incidents include disputes, which are not criminal in nature, and domestic-violence threats and force, Jones said. Domestic incidents for this year through April 22 totaled 17, he said. Domestic incidents for the same period last year were 11.

"I think it's probably undoubtedly that people are spending more time with each other," Jones said, because of the state's stay-at-home orders to limit the spread of the coronavirus and most residents working and learning from home since the middle of March.

Thefts also have been a little higher in number this year. Through April 22, 38 thefts were reported; 32 were reported during the same period last year, Jones said.

The police department has 24 types of thefts that are included in the overall number, Jones said. The type of theft with the biggest increase is theft from a commercial building, he said.

Through April 22, nine thefts from commercial buildings were reported, Jones said. Three were reported during the same period last year.

Thefts typically make up about 50% of the city's reported crimes, and that remains true, said city spokesman Scott McAfee.

Many thefts from vehicles occur from unlocked vehicles, he said.

McAfee said city officials continue to communicate best practices regarding how residents can ward off thefts from vehicles, as well as thefts of vehicles themselves.

Thefts from vehicles this year are reported as occurring less from residential areas and more from commercial areas, Jones said. This could be because of a perceived increased chance in confrontation because many people are at home, he said.

Overall, the community has done a great job living and working through the pandemic, Jones said.

"Hopefully, this will be resolved soon," he said.

Adjusted procedure

The pandemic also has forced the department to adjust some of its operations to limit employees' contact with each other and residents.

"We have adjusted the daily work schedules to limit the amount of contact the officers, dispatchers and staff have with each other to include some positions working from home," Jones said.

When direct contact with others is necessary, the department provides personal-protective equipment, including gloves, three types of masks and hand sanitizer, he said.

Lower-priority reports are taken over the phone, and the department is not providing civilian fingerprinting services, which typically are completed by an officer or the police clerk, Jones said.

Community-outreach activities, including Safety Town, the community's bike rodeo, officers giving out ice cream coupons to children wearing bike helmets, tours and ridealongs, have been suspended, too, he said.

Meanwhile, the department checks all employees' temperatures daily and limits officers' patrol activity, Jones said.

Cruisers have been disinfected, and officers, dispatchers and staff members have additional cleaning supplies for their workspaces, he said.

Officer Chad Bauman said the biggest changes he has noticed during the pandemic is that he and other officers are taking more reports over the phone and taking precautions by using masks and gloves.

"We've definitely seen a lot of support from our great community, and we continue to get through this," he said.