Orange County held a COVID-19 press conference Thursday afternoon covering topics such as early inmate release, abuse and price gouging.
Sherriff-Coronor Don Barnes reported that the inmate population has decreased by 38% in the last month to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. Although the courts are closed, hearings continue, and bail has been reduced to zero for almost all misdemeanors and felonies. Barnes spoke against this decision because the no-bail order remains valid and extends 90 days beyond the emergency stay at home order has been lifted.
The release of low-level offenders makes room for the jails to house the more serious offenders. “Government code gives me the authority to release any individual entrusted to my care during this emergency and I will not release any offender I believe poses a serious risk to the public based on current charges or past criminal histories,” said Barnes.
Barnes reported a 25% increase in domestic violence-related calls, child custody dispute calls went up 30% and family dispute calls increased by 24% in comparison to last year. These statistics are based on service calls alone.
Mandatory reporters such as school officials or bank officials are not interacting daily with many of those most vulnerable to abuse, since the stay at home order was implemented, therefore Orange County District Attorney, Todd Spitzer is asking for the public’s help.
“I would rather you call and report any suspicious activity and be wrong than fail to report a crime and have something happen to our vulnerable population,” said Spitzer. He also asked for the public’s help to report any elder abuse, child abuse or sexual abuse during this time especially with the stay at home order.
Spitzer’s office has set up a Coronavirus Scam Hotline and is asking for the public’s help in reporting price gouging. If the price we see exceeds 10% of what it used to be in that same location, they are violating California state law under these emergency orders. Reports can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 714-834-3482.
Spitzer is aware of people selling commodities, such as homemade masks on street corners and currently, they are not breaking any laws since it is a specialty item. They can charge a 50% premium and not be in violation of the Governor’s orders.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the US had never experienced an emergency like this. Currently, Senator Tom Lundberg is enacting a new law sponsored by Spitzer and the San Diego District Attorney, Summer Stephan to make it illegal to sell a commodity greater than 10% during any future pandemic.
If anyone has suspicions on abuse, know someone who is being abused or are a victim themselves you are asked to seek help or call any of the following hotlines:
· Orange County Child Abuse Registry 1-(800)-207-4464
· Orange County Adult Protective Services hotline- 1-(800)-451-5155
· National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-(800)-799-7233
· National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-(888)-373-7888
For more information on price gouging, a copy of the press release can be viewed here or visit http://orangecountyda.org