Coronavirus leads to downturn in Bay Area crime, authorities say

Inmate bookings are down at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin because of the coronavirus pandemic, but that's because the Alameda County Sheriff wants it that way. 

"Weve asked local agencies, if you can, cite and release in the field, do that," said Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern. "If you have a felony in custody, please bring them to Santa Rita Jail and we'll process them. 

The goal is to make sure the pandemic doesn't find its way into the jail from the outside. 

"If they're lightweight misdemeanors or felonies that are somewhat not serious in nature, let's say an embezzlement of sorts, if we can use our discretion and cite, we will do that," Ahern said. 

The sheriff's office is also checking the temperature of inmates and the officers who book them

Jail visitors are also being checked. So far no one has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. 

"Having a COVID-19 case come into our facility that would really cause us a lot of problems at this point," said Ahern. 

Authorities say crime overall seems to be down with many people staying at home. 

"It's very quiet out on the streets and that creates less activity, but we still have to provide essential 911 services and respond to priority calls," Ahern said. 

Across the Bay, San Francisco police reported only one violent crime of note on Tuesday, the first day of the shelter-in-place order. A woman was punched and robbed of her bicycle in the Financial District. 

California Highway Patrol is warning drivers not to be tempted by the open roads. CHP officers in Castro Valley stopped one driver who was speeding at 113 mph. 

The sheriff's Emergency Operations Center staff is tracking the coronavirus and monitoring calls to the 211 assistance line, which should be used for questions that have overwhelmed 911. Many calls are from homeless residents. 

"Where do I find handwashing stations? Where do I find showers? Where do I find bathrooms?" 211 coordinator Lars Eric Holm said these are some of the questions they've been receiving. "Today we got a call, 'Where do we find a place to charge my cell phone? The libraries are are closed.'"