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California

O.C. sheriff reports an uptick in domestic violence calls amid coronavirus crisis

Orange County jail
The Central Men’s Jail in Santa Ana.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department announced an uptick in calls reporting domestic violence, family disputes and child custody cases — a symptom of stay-at-home orders caused by the widening coronavirus crisis, officials said.

Domestic violence calls have increased 25% when compared with the same period in March and April last year, Sheriff Don Barnes said at a news conference Thursday. Family dispute and child custody dispute calls increased to 24% and 30%, respectively, he said.

The increase in these calls do not equate to actual crimes committed, though the two are generally consistent with one another, Barnes said. Officers may be dispatched to what they believe is a domestic violence call, but it turns out to be something else once they arrive on scene, he said.

In county jails, 24 inmates are in medical isolation because they’ve exhibited flu-like symptoms. Thirteen of those patients have tested positive for COVID-19. Such patients are treated on site, and none have required hospitalization, Barnes said.

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Barnes said 375 inmates, plus those newly booked into jail, are quarantined from the general public as precautionary measures and still have access to services.

Three deputies have tested positive for the virus, one of whom has recovered while the other two are still fighting the infection, Barnes said.

Barnes — who previously vowed to exhaust all other options before releasing prisoners early — lambasted state judicial leaders who approved 11 new emergency rules to keep essential court services running and to try and protect people from the coronavirus.

Under these emergency rules, the Judicial Council, the policymaking arm of the state court system, directed judges to set bail at zero in misdemeanor and low-level felony cases and to postpone proceedings that could result in evictions or foreclosures.

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Barnes said the “blatantly irresponsible” order — which would remain valid until 90 days after Gov. Gavin Newsom declares the emergency is over or until the Judicial Council revokes them — isn’t a one-size-fits all solution for all counties facing different sets of challenges and restraints.

“I will not release any offender who I believe poses a serious risk to the public based on their current charges or their past criminal histories,” he said. “These releases of low-level offenders who are already nearing the end of their sentences is being done to create necessary capacity, allowing us to continue to house the most serious offenders.”


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