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Pandemic causes changes for local law enforcement

 COVID-19 has put a lot of businesses and organizations in uncharted territory, and this includes local law enforcement.  Brandenburg Police Chief Brian Haag says that, based on the recommendations from the judicial system, they’re taking fewer people to jail. Instead, if at all possible, they will cite the individual and release them.  Haag explained that it all depends on the circumstance, but if offenders haven’t committed a violent crime, it’s likely they won’t spend significant time incarcerated initially. Haag says this helps keep the infection from spreading into the jail.  “There’s a lot of things that we would take people to jail for prior to this pandemic that, now, we’re citing and releasing,” said Haag. “That even goes for some felonies. It just depends on the circumstances and what’s going on.”  They’re also taking precautions internally to ensure that they stay as fully staffed as possible. He says that officers are doing all they can to practice social distancing and other safe practices. They also try to resolve as many issues over the phone as they can.  “If we have someone that becomes infected, we lose that officer for 14 days, possibly longer,” said Haag. “We have to be very cautious about what we’re doing so we don’t lose a front-line worker.”  According to Haag, they have seen a decrease in crime since the pandemic began, but over the last few weeks, the numbers are starting to increase.  “I don’t know if it’s just that people have been tied up for so long or if it’s a money or hardship issue,” said Haag.  Additionally, the police department will not be citing individuals for not wearing masks. However, if a business calls the authorities because a customer is not wearing a mask, the police will ask the individual to leave the location.  “We’re removing them not because they’re not wearing a mask, but because the business doesn’t want them there.”