Solving crimes during the coronavirus pandemic

Posted at 9:22 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 11:17:35-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — With the coronavirus impacting lives across the world, solving crimes is still a major priority for police departments all over.

Sgt. Nathan McCauley of the Bakersfield Police Department said that they are working just as hard to solve cases in the community, current and cold.

“The cold case unit is operating the same,” Sgt. McCauley said. “If anything it has had more impact on current cases.”

Conducting interviews from a distance, over the phone, or through a thick mask makes building a rapport with victims or witnesses more difficult.

“It can come off cold,” Sgt. McCauley said.

Even with those challenges though, Sgt. McCauley said this has not limited detectives' effectiveness in solving crimes.

According to Sgt. McCauley, police are solving about 80% of cases even with protective measures in place. According to homicide statistics released by the department last week, as of May 6, BPD investigated a total of eight homicides for 2020. Sgt. McCauley said six arrests have been made out of those cases.

These numbers down from last year, when BPD reported 11 homicides by this time in 2019.

Meantime at the Kern Regional Crime Lab, operations and staffing were reduced in response to the coronavirus. According to Joseph Kinzel of the Kern County District Attorney's Office, which oversees the crime lab, these changes have not impacted the lab's ability to solve crimes.

"Crime labs in other cities with less square footage have moved to split shifts to achieve social distancing," Kinzel said. "But we have not had to do that because our lab has enough space to continue operating safely."

Due to the lab's clinical environment not much needed to change in order to keep the lab safe and clean. The lab already practiced clean, universal precaution measures with appropriate personal protective equipment.

According to Kinzel, extra cleaning and social distancing were put in place to help stop the potential spread of COVID-19. As of May 11 though, the DA's office began transitioning back to full staffing at the lab and the DA’s office in anticipation of courts beginning to proceed on more types of cases.

"So far, the caseload is nothing out of the ordinary," Kinzel said.

Bakersfield's response to handling crime amid the coronavirus is more optimistic than reports from other police departments, according to a report by the Associated Press.

According to the AP, across the country, police departments have put investigations on hold as they detail detectives to help out with social distance patrols, or cover for their colleagues out sick with COVID-19.