As we all grow more accustomed to the changes made necessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe it is important to update the community on the status of your police department and what we are seeing in the community.
A crisis such as this, more often than not, brings out the best in people. We have seen neighbours helping neighbours, we have seen tight bonds being formed in families resulting from more time together, we have parents working with their children to ensure they continue to learn at home, and we have seen city and social services expand their outreach in all areas where people may be isolated or struggling.
Travelling through our neighbourhoods it’s also nice to see the obvious signs of support for frontline workers, such as chalk drawings on the sidewalk, and hearts in windows or hanging from trees.
However, when I say “more often than not,” there is an element of society that is taking advantage. Some people are using this crisis as an opportunity to do their dirty work. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has warned that criminals are using the pandemic as a chance to defraud and victimize people. The Ontario Provincial Police issued a warning about companies offering fake COVID-19 tests and selling unproven drugs, as well as scammers impersonating Public Health Agency of Canada to glean personal information and credit card numbers.
The Competition Bureau of Canada is fighting misinformation such as text message and email scams, and has issued 17 compliance warnings about misleading or false claims about masks, air purification filters and health.
Criminals are using websites and mobile apps to implant malware to steal financial and personal information. And other criminals have used COVID-19 as a lure to deploy ransomware for payments; health-care and other essential businesses are being targeted and there are reports that over 13,000 malicious websites are using COVID-19 within their domain names. Suffice to say that now, more than ever, is the time to be extremely vigilant.
In Delta we have investigated break-ins to vacated commercial premises, COVID-19 scams such as selling protective masks at exorbitant prices, and even people threatening or actually coughing or spitting on our officers when we are interacting with them during an investigation.
And how are we continuing to deliver services during COVID-19?
The Delta Police Department has had a pandemic plan for many years. When the threat of COVID-19 began in January, we reviewed our plan and refreshed it based on three fundamental principles: maintaining service levels and meeting community expectations, minimizing the spread of the virus and protecting our officers and staff by mitigating their exposure, and increasing capacity and flexibility in deployment for the new reality for different calls for service.
The pandemic plan — and the business continuity plan that accompanies it — is iterative and constantly changing. These plans have served us well and will continue to guide the DPD in these uncharted waters. Although no one can predict exactly what the future holds, I can say Delta Police will be here to serve this community. We will remain flexible and open to ideas and suggestions on how we can continue to meet your needs in these unprecedented times.
Neil Dubord is the chief constable of the Delta Police Department.