Parker County law enforcement agency officials are upping safety precautions and the way they handle calls during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Parker County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday morning that four employees have been evaluated for possible exposure to COVID-19 outside of the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office and jail have set up a mandatory sanitation check station for anyone entering the facilities.
“There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19. These employees are currently in quarantine for precautionary measures,” Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler said. “The PCSO has a sanitation check station before entering the facility. No one is allowed access to the building prior to being scanned and fever-free. This includes every employee. We have boosted sanitation measures and we are practicing social distancing with frequent hand washings.”
Fowler said they are asking residents to keep the 911 lines open for actual emergencies and to call the non-emergency line at 817-594-8845.
“Please be patient with all call-backs from our deputies and staff,” Fowler said. “Check on your neighbors and the elderly regularly. A phone call could mean the world to them.”
The Weatherford Police Department is asking the public to consider requesting a call back from an officer by phone, rather than a face-to-face response.
“This will help reduce or minimize our officers exposure, as well as your own. However, if there is evidence to be collected (photos, fingerprints, etc.) we will need to send the officer out to the scene. Just to be clear, if you strongly feel the need to still speak to an officer in person, we will always try to accommodate those requests,” according to the WPD. “For the next several months, our telecommunicators will ask if your non-emergency request for service is something that can be handled by phone rather than sending an officer out for face-to-face contact. We pride ourselves on our customer service to our community. However, the COVID-19 spread has created an atmosphere of monumental demands on federal, state and municipal services. So please be patient with us as we all learn to navigate through these unprecedented changes to our daily lives.”
In taking precautions, WPD has closed the drug take-back box, canceled ride-alongs with the public, canceled all public group meetings in the facility, declined acceptance of food items from the public unless they are manufactured pre-packaged foods that are generally long-term shelf life items and canceled public fingerprinting through May 10.
Willow Park Police Department Chief Carrie West said they have issued all personal protective equipment and established new guidelines of taking reports via telephone when an in-person response is not necessary.
“Officers are still responding to calls when there is need for an officer to go to the scene. Emergency responses are not affected,” West said. “The Willow Park Police Department urges everyone to stay up to date with the latest governmental orders. They are issued to keep everyone informed and safe during this unprecedented event. The biggest thing is to keep social distancing in mind. If there are any symptoms, wear something to block the spread such as a mask. Tell the officer that you are not feeling well so they can take additional precautionary measures too. We will continue to provide excellent service to our community.”
Hudson Oaks Police Corporal Dustin Kennedy said the department made preparations prior to the spreading of the coronavirus.
“We provide all our staff with PPE packs that are equipped to handle infectious disease spread. As this equipment is used or becomes ineffective, the equipment is replaced to maintain the optimal protection for each and every officer in order for our public services to be minimally affected and public safety maintained through this trying time,” Kennedy said. “Suggestions that we would give citizens during this event would be to follow your local, state and federal agency guidelines and mandates. By following these agencies recommendations, we can drastically reduce the debilitating effects, both long and short term on the health and economy of our community.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic grows, so do the scams associated with it, according to a release from the Texas Senior Medicare Patrol.
According to Texas SMP, scammers use public health emergencies as opportunities for new fraud schemes, and because older adults are high risk, they may be targeted.
“There is currently no FDA-approved vaccine for COVID-19 and although there may be treatments for symptoms, there is no ‘cure,’” Texas SMP Program Director Jennifer Salazar said. “However, scammers often use fear-based tactics to convince people that a vaccine or cure is now being offered.”
PCSO Public Information Officer Deputy Danie Huffman received a scam text from the number 412-328-2443 to her personal cell phone Tuesday morning, which read, “2nd Source of Funding: 2 Minutes Needed to Complete Additional Request: $6,000 Yr No Repayment. Reply: CHECKS. [sic].”
“When I researched the number, it led me to a suspicious website. All related texts, calls and emails of this sort are definitely a scam. Do not reply to any of these messages, calls or emails,” Huffman said. “Simply delete them or hang up. It is also important to note if anyone receives text messages, emails or phone calls from someone claiming to be from a government agency, it is fraudulent. The government does not contact citizens by these means.”
According to the Weatherford Police Department’s Facebook page, tips are available on the Federal Trade Commission website.
“Unfortunately, scammers have absolutely no conscious and try to take advantage of people’s fears even in unprecedented times like these,” according to the WPD. “Please be aware of the various scams out there and always remember — if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you ever have a question about a possible scam, feel free to call us anytime to get advice at 817-598-4310. Or, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and our financial crimes detective can answer your questions by email.”
Kennedy said the Hudson Oaks Police Department has not received any complaints of scams at this time.
“However, as things are always fluid, this could change overnight,” Kennedy said. “It is our suggestion that calls be screened by our residents and if something seems off about a phone call to contact the police department for assistance in verifying the validity of the phone call.”
West said scams are popping up and residents should keep their guard up.
“Do not ever give our personal identifying information, which includes Medicare ID# for the elderly,” West said. “The Colleyville Police Department advised of a phishing scam regarding the economic stimulus that is expected. Be vigilant with your personal information and of your surroundings. It is sad but there are criminals out there who will use times like this to exploit others.”