Trumbull chief: Police calls up, crime down due to coronavirus

TRUMBULL — Trumbull police remain as busy as ever, despite a dramatic slowdown in crime due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They’re still out there doing the job that we expect of them,” Police Chief Michael Lombardo told the Police Commission at its May 12 meeting.

Overall, Trumbull officers responded to 1,892 calls for service, which is about 20 percent more than the 1,578 calls police received in April 2019. About half those calls — 910 — were for checks on town property, Lombardo said.

“We had a significant increase in calls for checks on areas — parks, trails, school grounds, school fields,” Lombardo said. With most public areas closed, police patrolled the town’s parks and trails checking for people trespassing or not observing social distancing guidelines, he said. The checks did not result in any tickets, Lombardo said, as residents had been been cooperative when reminded of the rules.

The increase in property checks were offset by a dramatic reduction in other types of activity. For example, in April 2019, Trumbull police made 215 vehicle enforcement actions, from vehicular arrests including tickets and warnings to DUI arrests and vehicle complaints. In 2020, that number was 29.

The number of complaints remained steady, 21 in 2019 compared with 20 in 2020. Police also made three DUI arrests in April 2020 against two in 2019. In 2019, the department gave out 78 motor vehicle warnings compared with four in 2020, and motor vehicle arrests also saw steep but expected declines, he said, from 114 in 2019 to two in 2020.

“We’ve asked our officers to have less direct contact with residents,” he said. “It’s all pandemic related.”

Larceny arrests similarly dropped from 64 in April 2019 to 24 in 2020.

“Obviously, the two big shopping centers in town are closed, and that’s a lot of the calls we would have had,” Lombardo said.

One area that has not slowed is car thefts and thefts from cars, according to the department’s monthly records. Four Trumbull residents reported having their cars stolen in April 2020, compared with just one in 2019. There also were 17 reported thefts from vehicles last month, compared with seven in April 2019.

Lombardo said the single biggest factor in the thefts is people leaving their cars unlocked, sometimes with the keys inside.

“I really can’t stress enough, lock your car and take the keys out of cars every night,” he said. “Almost every car entered was left unlocked. Almost every car stolen had the keys left inside.”

In positive news, the department conducted 21 birthday parades which Lombardo said had been “a huge hit and morale booster” in the community.

Finally, Lombardo reported that despite a global pandemic, the department had remained healthy. Several officers had been quarantined after potential exposure to coronavirus, but none had tested positive. Last month, there were 39 shifts missed because of illness, slightly more than the 35 shifts missed in April 2019 and slightly below the 2019 average of 43.3 shifts missed per month last year.

The officers’ health during the pandemic could be attributed to several factors, including the Police Headquarters building being closed to the public and the daily cleaning and sanitizing of every surface, he said. In addition, everyone entering the building to do construction work, for deliveries or for meetings, must wear a mask, he said.

“The officers in the field have been doing a wonderful job,” Lombardo told the commission. “They’re still out there every day.”