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Waterloo police getting hundreds fewer calls per week during COVID-19 pandemic, chief says

Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin. @WRPSToday / Twitter

Waterloo Regional Police have laid eight charges related to emergency orders during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Chief Bryan Larkin.

At a roundtable discussion with reporters Monday, he said the charges were spread across the tri-cities area and included an incident where a woman was arrested after coughing on an elderly person during an argument at a Starbucks drive-thru in Cambridge. She is facing an assault charge.

Also among the charges listed by the chief was an incident where a man spat at employees at a Tim Hortons in Waterloo. The suspect was later arrested and charged with assault and mischief under $5,000.

READ MORE: Waterloo police couldn’t let coronavirus spoil 7-year-old’s birthday party

Larkin said the force’s approach is not to immediately arrest people when they have been asked to deal with issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Our approach has always been compliance,” he said. “It’s really been around ‘please, do your part.'”

Larkin said the force saw an eight per cent drop in calls over the first eight weeks of the pandemic, although things have begun to normalize as the province kicks back into action.

“Call volume has dropped by anywhere from 275 calls to 300 calls for service per week,” he said.

The Waterloo chief said the force has seen a decrease in reports of residential thefts, shoplifting, theft under $5,000 and mischief under $5,000.

For example, with most people being at home, the opportunity to commit residential break-ins has been more challenging,” he said.

“Vice versa, though, we’ve seen a slight increase in commercial break-ins, as some of our businesses are obviously not open. So people target those areas.”

READ MORE: Criminals look to avoid ‘cuffs with COVID-19 claims, Waterloo’s top cop says

Larkin said that with schools closed, there has also been a decrease in the number of calls for things such as bullying and assault.

There have also been fewer collisions on the roadways with fewer drivers on the road, and Larkin says the closure of bars and clubs has also affected the call rate.

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“So where we would normally see disturbances, for example, in Uptown Waterloo on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday night, those calls have declined,” he said.

This does not mean that officers have been left twiddling their thumbs.

Where we’re seeing the slight increase has been really tied to the pandemic,” Larkin said.

He said there has been a rise in complaints about people breaking emergency orders enacted by the Ontario government.

“The complexities and demand and our time on scene is very different,” Larkin said about officers answering those calls.

He also noted that the force is making more traffic stops and drug and firearm seizures.

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