Locked Down or Locked Up in Leadville
“The last week has been very different in Leadville. The normal foot and bike traffic is almost nonexistent, business closed, even Safeway is eerily quiet,” said Leadville Police Chief Saige Bertolas. “I continue to check my radio to be sure it is still on. Is this the calm before the storm? Only time will tell.”
But as the days tick by in quarantine 80461, how are residents holding up? Have tempers started to rise as household supplies and patience runs low? It’s natural for things to become edgy as the unknown intersects with cabin fever, even for Leadvillites who are used to hunkering down for longer than most during the winter months.
Last week, Kristin Jones, Assistant Director of Communications with The Colorado Trust released a statewide report regarding domestic violence victims presenting the challenges of Coronavirus, as the situation ratchets up the danger, access to dependable services shrinks.
Isolation carries health risks for all of us. But for people who live with their abusers, the dangers can be immediate. . . When home is already an unsafe situation,” a stay-at-home order can become a life-threatening situation for victims of domestic violence.
So how are things looking locally for domestic violence? Beyond that, what is happening with the courts, and those who will be taken into custody, especially considering that Lake County no longer has a jail. How has the Coronavirus impacted law enforcement and the courts in Leadville Today?
“The concerns about domestic violence increasing has been high on my radar,” said Chief Bertolas. “As we know when families, partners, or friends, are contained in an area and not allowed the normal breaks, such as work, school, social outings, clubs, or the ability to participate in their normal religious activities, tensions rise. Then to add the stress of possibly losing your job, or may have already lost your job, children being in the house full time and trying to navigate how to become a homeschool teacher, a child coming back into the home unexpectedly because of colleges closing for the year, COVID-19 has certainly created more than the perfect recipe for disaster.”
Fortunately, as America’s highest city heads into what is week three of quarantine 80461 for many, the statistics Chief Bertolas provided do not indicate a shift in any crimes.
“I am so proud of our community with the daily changes and scares. I have noticed people truly listening to Governor Polis and the Health Departments recommendations and orders,” stated Leadville’s Police Chief, adding. “At this point, there have not been any real issues needing law enforcement intervention regarding the Stay-at-Home order within the city limits.”
And the report from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office is somewhat the same.
“The incidents of domestic violence has rose a bit,” said Lake County Sheriff Amy Reyes. “We believe with the tensions of quarantine and many of our folks incomes being lost we may see more in the weeks to come.”
But for perpetrators, the message from Lake County’s top law enforcement officer is firm and direct.
“Domestic Violence is a MUST arrest crime and the individual is not allowed to bond until advisement by a judge,” Reyes explained. “With the quarantine in place we will continue to arrest offenders of domestic violence. Since, the jail has closed we book the offender in, and then transport to outside counties.”
So, what can you do? Police Chief Bertolas provided the following tools to use if you know someone who might be at heightened risk for domestic violence during quarantine 80461.
- Friends and family members should be sure to keep regular communication.
- Ask questions, but more importantly listen carefully to what is being said, or not said in response.
- Use tools like facetime and zoom to be able to see the person. Being able to talk when seeing each other is powerful! There are a lot of clues to be observed that would not be so prevalent while texting or even talking on the phone.
For those who need help, The Advocates of Lake County is your local resource. Their staff and volunteer resources are established and even though they have been limiting face-to-face services due to COVID-19 concerns, they do still offer support and most non-emergency services by their hotline phone: 719-486-3530.
From The District Attorney
On March 27, a press release was distributed to media outlets from District Attorney Bruce Brown concerning the status of the mountain jails and courts he represents in the Fifth Judicial District for Colorado.
Incarcerated people have a heightened potential for COVID-19 infection prompting law enforcement Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, Judges and the District Attorney in the Fifth Judicial District, to collaborate and minimize those risks, by drastically reducing jail(s) population.
These steps have been ongoing for the past three weeks, and were proactively initiated as the potential for Statewide Coronavirus (COVID-19) spread became known.
In the four counties comprising Colorado’s Fifth Judicial District there has been an average decline of inmate population of 43%, between March 1 and March 25. The declining inmate population is due to a combination of measures, including:
- Prompt detention hearings for arrestees who have Coronavirus symptoms.
- Bond reduction for inmates who are a low risk to public safety, some of whose release is conditioned on electronic monitoring.
- Using a felony summons, which is a written promise to appear at a future date, in lieu of arresting a person.
- Reducing of previously imposed sentences and giving selected inmates early release.
Cage Free in Leadville Today
All good intentions considered, Lake County’s inmate population has been just about as low as it can get since the facility was officially shut down by Sheriff Reyes in 2019, after an attempted escape by a prisoner. So then, how will these new policies be handled locally?
“Prisoners are still processed the same as they have been since jail was closed,” Lake County Sheriff Amy Reyes explained in an email response to Leadville Today. “What has changed is now we are looking at what crimes can be summons into court versus arrest on sight.”
DA Brown echoed the same, confirming that “the Sheriff contracts with other area jails (Park and Summit) to house Lake County inmates. That is still occurring. Yes, inmates will be quickly transported if they remain in custody.”
Ironically, the Coronavirus may bring a resolution to a Lake County court issue that has grown more egregious each year: a speedier process. One of the temporary resolves in place addresses that concern.
“We do have interim procedures established to get arrestees before the judge in some circumstances that can result in their immediate release on a personal recognizance (no money) bond. We’re trying to arrest as few people as possible, and local agencies are being encouraged to issues summonses (tickets to appear) in lieu of arrest whenever possible,” concluded Brown in response to LT’s media inquiry.
What may also change during the COVID-19 crisis is where the advisement takes place. The Lake County Sheriff Office is currently working with Lake County Judge Shamis to do advisements via webcam.
“If there is an instance where the offender has no place to go we may need to get creative in helping the offender stay somewhere else, so the victim is safe. Our goal is to maintain community safety while working within today’s environment with the COVID 19 virus.
And finally, what about the restriction of movement put in place by the Governor’s Stay-at-Home order?
Sheriff Reyes: “With the new mandate given by the Governor we will first attempt to educate the public. About the quarantine in place. The new law given down by the Governor does allow law enforcement to stop and check individuals if they reasonably believe they are violating the quarantine. Law enforcement can and will cite if necessary. The law does allow law enforcement to use and force necessary to enforce the quarantine. However, we hope with continued education of the public we do not have to use drastic measures.”
It was a sentiment Police Chief Bertolas concurred with: “It is not out objective to be contacting vehicles, writing tickets or making arrests. If we can simply answer questions and keep our citizens up to date on the most recent orders or related events, then we have accomplished our objective and it is a win for everyone involved.”
Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today. Colorado Journalist Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin, a digital media company located in Leadville, Colorado which publishes LeadvilleToday.com and SaguacheToday.com. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org