As students social distance, LUPD sees a decrease in crime. LUPD has continued to operate normally, but officers now wear masks and wash their hands more often. (Samuel Henry/B&W Staff)

LUPD sees decrease in crime amid coronavirus era

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Crime in Bethlehem has decreased as people practice social distancing due to the coronavirus.

LUPD Assistant Chief Chris Houtz said LUPD has not discovered any off-campus burglaries since the move to online learning.

“When you have a much smaller population, opportunity for crime decreases,” Houtz said.

BPD Chief Mark DiLuzio said the BPD is experiencing a decrease in crime since the stay-at-home orders have been implemented.

However, DiLuzio said Lehigh students have little to no impact on the crime rate, considering they leave campus every year over the summer and on various breaks.

He also said he does not see a correlation between underage drinking and the coronavirus. LUPD has not had any cases of underage drinking since the start of the pandemic.

“We’ve had some minor noise complaints here and there, but nothing like we’ve seen in the past,” said LUPD Lt. David Kokinda.

Kokinda said LUPD is trying to ensure everyone practices social distancing and remains 6 feet apart.

DiLuzio said Bethlehem police are handling complaints by educating citizens and businesses about Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, along with the governor’s restrictions. 

“Citizens and businesses are cooperating fully,” DiLuzio said. 

Kokinda said LUPD has had to focus its attention on a new crime, “Zoom bombing.” Zoom bombing is when unwelcome intruders hack into Zoom, a free website for video conferences, and disrupt meetings and Lehigh classes held..

Kokinda said LUPD investigates what it can but, since the hacking is done through anonymous means, it’s difficult to investigate further.

He said Library and Technology Services has taken on the responsibility of securing Zoom meetings. LTS and Lehigh  have added more security measures to prevent these incidents.

Kokinda said the LUPD has been working to control access to facilities around campus to ensure they are safe and clean. He said they also decided to close the “Hill” to decrease the amount of people not practicing social distancing. By shutting the upper gates, there is no traffic running through campus anymore.

“We were experiencing a lot of people going and hanging out at the lookout, and we had some criminal mischief up there a few times over the last couple weeks,” Kokinda said.“There’s no reason it needs to be open to the general public at this point.”

DiLuzio said he is handling his job in the same manner as in the past. He continues to focus on public safety, the safety of other officers and the support of citizens.

As far as patrol, LUPD is continuing to do the same things it normally would, like responding to calls, except now, officers show up with masks over their faces and try to wash their hands as often as they can. 

When officers walk into the police department building, the supervisor on shift checks their temperatures and verifies they are not experiencing any symptoms consistent with COVID-19, Kokinda said.

Kokinda said he tries not to travel around the department unless he has to, instead opting for phone calls, even if he only wants to talk to someone in an office away from him. 

He said it’s a bit stressful knowing the virus is present, but he prefers not to think about it. 

“You put yourself out there while other people are staying at home, you have an increased chance of getting the virus,” Kokinda said. “You understand it’s there, but you still gotta do your job.”

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