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Virus halts jail visits

Local law enforcement agencies are implementing a series of precautions that will impact everything from jail visits to crime reporting as they work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

All Jackson County Jail personal visits are canceled as of this weekend, according to a press release issued by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Friday afternoon. Corrections staff will conduct “ongoing evaluations” surrounding future visits.

Corrections deputies will perform heightened health screenings watching for symptoms of COVID-19 during the inmate booking process, according to public information officer Mike Moran, and the facility will undergo enhanced cleanings.

Sheriff’s deputies may keep a farther distance from individuals when conducting face-to-face conversations or choose outdoor environments to conduct interviews as part of their precautions.

“We don’t want them to think we’re being rude or standoffish,” Moran said.

The policy changes will impact several departments at the Sheriff’s Office, including the civil division and patrol divisions, according to Moran.

Sheriff’s deputies will assess each situation on a case-by-vase basis, but Moran acknowledged that they’re only guidelines.

“These are all great ideas but can’t always be followed,” Moran said. “The problem for patrol deputies ... the job requires them to be at risk all the time.”

Medford police chief Scott Clauson is asking all residents to report crimes online “whenever practical” as a way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, according to a release issued Friday afternoon. The online reporting tool at cityofmedford.org/reportcrime has been used since 2002, and Clauson says officers process online reports at the same priority level as those generated from in-person reports.

Staffing levels haven’t changed, according to Clauson, and the emphasis on online crime reporting is a precautionary measure.

Medford police is working with emergency management partners to ensure “critical and essential services” are maintained, according to the release.

Coronavirus concerns won’t stop sheriff’s deputies from making calls for service, Moran said, but deputies have undergone training encouraging them to be mindful of the risks of preventing the virus from spreading in the field, such as maintaining safe distances and avoiding enclosed spaces where the illness is more likely to spread.

At the sheriff’s office civil division, the largest impact will be a temporary hiatus on processing concealed handgun licenses until March 23, when the Sheriff’s Office will launch its new online services website at jacksoncountyor.org/sheriff.

Renewal applicants can drop off applications at the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, 5179 Crater Lake Highway, Central Point, but no applications will be processed until next week, according to Moran.

After March 23, staff at JCSO will resume processing concealed handgun renewals that don’t require fingerprinting or photographs, and for new applications staff will make appointments with applicants to get fingerprints and photos.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

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