Virus lockdown may have slowed crime

If you look just at the numbers, the pandemic-driven lockdown may have given county lawbreakers pause.

“We usually have three or four bond hearings a week for new arrests,” said Trempealeau County District Attorney John Sacia. “We’re down to one or two, and some weeks, none.”

Sheriff Brett Semingson said department calls are down, overall, 22 percent for April this year compared to last. But the drop is not spread equally over the 63 categories the department measures.

“We do know the ‘Safer at Home’ order has changed how we do business in general,” Semingson said. “At this time it would be difficult to say why some calls for service are up and others numbers are down. But I do know it has had an impact on our community.”

Sacia said it “is my sense there are fewer arrests.” As advocates for the victims of domestic abuse have noted, Sacia said he also is concerned the pressure of the pandemic restrictions may be increasing the incidence of domestic abuse without victims being able to easily report the crimes. But with the bars closed, Sacia said there are fewer battery and other cases that can arise from incidents in taverns.

He said his office is using the slowdown to re-examine and initiate charges in non-violent fraud cases. Hearings are still being held in Trempealeau County, many online, said Circuit Court Judge Rian Radtke.

Semingson said his department is seeing the same number of operating while intoxicated cases this April that he saw last. “I would be very hesitant to say that OWIs are down as a result of the bars being closed.”

One infraction that hasn’t made its way into the judicial system is violations of Gov. Tony Evers’s stay at home order.

Semingson said his department has investigated just two complaints about businesses being opened and in neither instance were charges filed.

“I’m pleased we’ve had no referrals on the stay at home order,” Sacia said. “Hopefully it will stay that way.”



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