A rare positive aspect of the pandemic
There aren’t many good things to come from the COVID-19 pandemic in the year 2020, but one of them is the county has seen a drop in serious crimes.
Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd reported this week that the number of felonies filed by his office in the past 12 months has dropped by nine percent compared to the previous year.
“That’s one good news story of the pandemic, as a result of folks not being out as much, we are seeing fewer lower level felonies,” Zahnd said Monday.
The veteran prosecutor did say that the pandemic did likely contribute to an increase in the number of domestic violence cases filed by his office, with more time at home increasing the chances of violent interactions.
“Platte County, like every jurisdiction, I suspect, has seen marked increases in the number of both misdemeanor and felony domestic violence cases as a result of the pandemic. Unfortunately, the social distancing measures required to fight the pandemic sometimes force victims to spend even more time with their abusers, isolated from others. Add to that the other stresses created by the pandemic-loss of income, uncertainty about what the future holds, and other pressures-and you wind up with a particularly volatile combination where people prone to abuse will act on their worst impulses,” Zahnd told The Landmark Monday afternoon.
For the 12 months ending Oct. 31, Zahnd’s office filed 633 felony cases in the past year. In the previous 12 months, that number was 698.
In the year 2008, as a comparison, Zahnd’s office filed 400 felonies, which means an increase of more than 50 percent in the past 12 years.
“Frankly, we need more people, our caseloads are high for our assistant prosecutors,” Zahnd told the Platte County Commission in a report this week.
“Our office is working hard and working well. We appreciate the support of this commission, the money that you are spending on law enforcement,” he remarked.
Zahnd said his office has 9.5 assistant prosecutors, meaning nine full time assistants and one part-time.
In addition to the 633 felonies, Zahnd said his office filed 8,491 misdemeanor cases, many of which are traffic tickets.
“Aside from the large increase in domestic violence crimes, other violent crime rates remain fairly steady. As you know, I’m always cautious about reading too much into one-year swings because, fortunately, the sample size in Platte County is relatively small. That said, it seems like we have seen a decrease in some nonviolent crimes, again probably because people are more likely to be home. Spending more time at home unfortunately seems to mean that domestic violence increases, but people are less likely to be caught committing other crimes-like drug possession or DWI-not because they are using fewer drugs or drinking less, but because they are less likely to be stopped while driving,” Zahnd said.