Newport’s police department is both widely known and respected for its minutes-only response time to calls. But since the Coronavirus onslaught nationally and statewide, the PD has had to adjust to a new type of response: federal and gubernatorial edicts, many of which are “only learned during televised press conferences,” said Police Chief Jon Lewis.
“Responding quickly to those government changes is one of our greatest challenges,” Lewis said, who underscored that in regards to day-to-day police services, “most things remain the same.”
“Our officers are still on the street, and we remain a full-service department,” Lewis emphasized.
However, there are some changes caused by COVID-19.
“We’re maximizing the use of on-line reporting, and we closed the front desk, although there are people there to take reports,” Lewis said.
When safe and appropriate, Lewis said that “we are encouraging people to meet with our officers outside for open-air interaction.”
Should officers have a need for close proximity interaction, every patrol car is equipped with full health protection gear: gloves, masks, eye protection, hand sanitizers, wipes, and more.
Although it has been an ongoing challenge to accumulate some of that material, “There have been local businesses that have had to temporarily close and individuals who’ve generously volunteered to supply us with some of those needs,” Lewis said. “We have some great partnerships and an incredibly thoughtful community.”
There have been “significant closures” throughout the city, said Lewis, most notably the oceanfront boardwalk, piers and parking lots, some parks, and open spaces in Corona del Mar.
As of this weekend, the walkway around Balboa Island will also be closed, even to Island residents, although Marine Avenue will remain open, as will all avenue sidewalks. Although beaches remain open, “getting to the beaches will be more difficult,” Lewis noted. Police officers will be “extremely visible” in these areas, he pledged.
Overall, residents are “making do with the closures. We are encouraging people to stay home and to stay in their neighborhoods, and discouraging people from going to the beaches for respect to the local residents,” Lewis said. “We have seen a decrease in both pedestrian and vehicle traffic.”
As with the population at large, the Newport Beach Police Department is concerned about the health and well-being of the city’s homeless population, said Lewis.
“We’re in contact with them daily, and we’re dedicated to providing the resources they need. Our efforts remain to get them housed and off the street.”
Above all, said Lewis, “we want everybody to know that our officers and the city want all to be safe, stay at home, go out only when you have to, and to keep social distancing. We’re out here for you, so please stay at home for us.”
For more information, visit NBPD.org.