Calls for service to Biddeford Police have decreased in the first quarter of this year, as compared to 2019, with felonies down by 9 percent. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — Whether the reasons can be traced solely to the coronavirus or there are other factors at play, Biddeford Police Department’s calls for service are, in general, down from the same period a year ago.

From Jan. 1 through April 4, the number of criminal offense reports were down 15 percent as compared to the same period a year ago, said Police Chief Roger Beaupre, though other calls for service, for items like found property and similar calls, were up 17 percent. As well, felony offenses were down 9 percent from a year ago, and all criminal offenses together, whether felony or misdemeanor, were down 13 percent, he said.

“Our calls for service are down,” said Beaupre. “I’m not sure if this is the calm before the storm, but surprisingly enough, there are fewer calls.”

And while some categories of calls are up from the prior year, others are mimicking the overall downward trend, down.

Residential burglaries are down — likely because there are more people at home, Beaupre said.

Domestic complaints rose by eight calls, from 51 in the first quarter of  2019, to 59 calls in the same period this year.


Animal control calls are up 27 percent — more people are out walking, and some of them are getting animal bites, and there are calls for dogs on the beach and similar situations, he said.

Biddeford Police Chief Roger Beaupre, shown here in this 2018 Journal Tribune file photo, said calls for service in the city have decreased in the first quarter of 2020, as compared to the same period last year. Tammy Wells Photo

Mental health calls are about the same number as in 2019, he said.

Beaupre noted adult arrests are down 24 percent, and custodial arrests down 19 percent.

Incidents of misusing 911 are up though — by 20 percent — because of inadvertent dialing, children playing with phones or people calling the number for reasons other than an emergency. He noted that Biddeford has four dispatchers on duty at a given time, and asked that people calling for nonemergency reasons dial 282-5127. Those who live in one of the rural towns for which Biddeford provides dispatch service should call the York County Sheriff’s Office at 324-1113. Calls for general information may be made by dialing 211, he said.

Beaupre said there have been 37 reports of scams and one complaint of price gouging — an individual reported a store was charging $2 more per gallon of milk than elsewhere. As it turns out, the store charges more as a matter of routine, the investigation revealed.

Police are handling some calls for service differently than they would before the coronavirus pandemic, by taking reports by phone. As well, police are issuing summonses for non-violent offenses, rather than making a custodial arrest and taking the alleged offender to York County Jail. On the same note, Beaupre said he’s told officers to ease up on writing traffic violations — to keep everyone safe. They’re down about 33 percent over the same period in 2019, he said.


Beaupre said he began asking officers to issue summonses when possible, rather than arrest, some time ago.

“It only makes sense, because you’re exposing people to physical contact; the only way to maintain distance is not to arrest,” he said

As well, York County Sheriff William L. King Jr. asked all York County police chiefs to use their discretion protocols, when applicable, to determine the necessity for a custodial arrest.

“The police departments have responded in great fashion,” said King. As well, he said, the state has issued an order giving those who have been convicted of crimes and previously granted a stay of execution of their sentence, a further stay.

King said the biggest virus threat to the jail is people being admitted. And while there are always some arrestees who will be incarcerated, as of April 9, King said none had tested positive for COVID-19.

Beaupre is aware the calls for service could increase. He said the department is doing what it can to keep officers healthy and able to work.

“We put in place restrictions on the type of calls officers handle, to keep them safe, so they’re able to respond to real emergencies,” said Beaupre. “It doesn’t bode well with community policing efforts, but we try to educate the public and people are complying with the six-foot (social distancing) order, and when they’re not, we suggest.”

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