Auburn police lift pandemic-related booking restrictions

Under COVID-19 restrictions, the Auburn Police Department had been booking suspects only under a limited number of circumstances.

That is, for felonies like murder and rape, for DUI-related offenses — except cases involving blood draws where toxicology results are pending — domestic violence arrests, warrants of $10,000 or more and a few others.

It appears that Auburn residents have been piping up a lot lately about the resulting increase in crime. Members of the Police Advisory Committee recently expressed the sense of lawlessness that is gripping the community to Police Chief Dan O’Neil, Mayor Nancy Backus and the Auburn City Council.

On the APD’s social media site last week, O’Neil assured the community he serves that he has been listening.

“In order to address your concerns and do our part to bring accountability to those who are engaging in criminal activity and victimizing our community,” O’Neil said, “I will be lifting all COVID-related booking restrictions effective April 1. Booking decisions going forward from that date, he said, will be based on officer discretion consistent with pre-COVID operations.

“I have had conversations with our city prosecutors and the SCORE jail to ensure they can handle this change in practice,” O’Neil said. “I am also aware that corrections employees are now eligible for the COVID vaccine and have been for several weeks.”

O’Neil noted that public safety and the enforcement of the law depend not only on law enforcement, but also on courts, prosecution and corrections.

“Law enforcement has been essential during the pandemic, and our city prosecutors have been working relentlessly to file cases. SCORE has been an outstanding partner, while being flexible to meet our needs and keeping staff and those incarcerated safe,” O’Neil said.

Unfortunately, O’Neil said, the courts and the correctional system at the county level have slowed the justice system. His hope is that COVID numbers and hospitalizations decrease, and as the number of people who have become vaccinated increases, the courts will once again start issuing warrants for people who fail to appear in court in response to a summons.

“The lawlessness that is occurring as a result of restricted action by the courts is becoming a bigger threat to our community than the pandemic itself. After having 12 months to plan, we are hopeful that our court system will find a way to operate at full capacity while adopting protocol to keep those involved in our criminal justice system safe. Until then, your police department is committed to bringing those who victimize our community to justice as we work to improve community safety,” O’Neil said.