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The Philadelphia Police Department will be delaying arrests for some nonviolent offenses to limit the spread of the coronavirus within the corrections system. 

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Amid concerns the coronavirus panic will lead to an uptick in crime, the Division of Public Safety said they do not expect excessive criminal activity and said they will continue operations as usual.

On March 18, the Philadelphia Police Department announced that police officers will be delaying arrests for certain nonviolent offenses in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus within the corrections system. Even though arrests will be delayed, police will obtain arrest warrants to be issued at a later time, and suspects can still be held if police determine they pose a threat, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer

Nonviolent offenses include all narcotics offenses, theft, burglary, vandalism, bench warrants, economic crimes, and prostitution. 

These measures are part of an ongoing effort by the city to limit the spread of the coronavirus within the criminal justice system. Last week, city officials announced that all Philadelphia courts will be closed until April 1st.

Rush said there has not been an increase in criminal incidents since the announcement about delaying nonviolent arrests. DPS have conducted no arrests, and there have been few crime issues.

“For the most part, people are adhering to orders to remain in shelter-in-place,” Rush said.

Currently, DPS is working in collaboration with Drexel Police, SEPTA Police, and Philadelphia Police on crime prevention and arrest, according to Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush. 

Rush said the delay in nonviolent arrests does not mean people can avoid punishment, emphasizing that if a nonviolent crime occurs, the “suspect is identified, and at a later point, [will be arrested] by warrant.”

“[The delay in arrests is] no mere get-out-of-jail for an individual who thinks they will not be arrested,” Rush said.

On Tuesday, a UPennAlert reported an attempted burglary on the 4200 block of Walnut Street. The incident occurred when an unidentified suspect attempted to break into a student’s apartment. Rush described the incident as an attempt to “take advantage of low-occupancy levels.”

Although campus is less populated than normal, Rush said DPS is still conducting its usual level of patrols. DPS will also conduct special checks on unoccupied homes within the Penn patrol zone, bounded by 30th and 43rd streets from Baltimore Avenue to Market Street. Penn community members can register online to have the exterior of their unoccupied properties checked periodically for signs of criminal activity or security breaches.

With more people staying inside and less people on the street, it is easier law enforcement to take action against people who may be causing disturbances, Rush added.

“Walking around, you are more noticeable,” she said. “Bottom line: with so few people on the street, you see more people walking around, [and we] will take action.”

Although crime rates are currently low, Rush stressed that DPS is prepared for future incidents.

“There is always a chance people will feel the need to get supplies and food they wouldn’t normally,” Rush said. “[DPS and its partners] are mindful and watchful of activity that changes from the norm.”

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