Shutdown curbs tickets but abuse reports increase

Sheriff says officers also responded to more mental health calls possibly due to increased use of alcohol, drugs
Ozaukee Press staff

The institution of Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home orders in March meant some changes in the way the Ozaukee County Circuit Court and the Sheriff’s Office and Jail operated, but those adjustments are beginning to ease now that the state Supreme Court struck down that order.

With people staying at home more, there have been fewer arrests, Clerk of Courts Mary Lou Mueller and Sheriff Jim Johnson said, including a drop in the number of  traffic tickets being written.

“People are not driving as much,” Mueller said.

On the other hand, Mueller said there’s also been an increase in the number of temporary restraining orders, indicating domestic violence may be on the rise, and Johnson said there has been an uptick in mental health calls, some of it possibly being related to increased use of alcohol and drugs at home.

“From what I’ve read, the liquor industry is doing just fine,” Johnson said.

Mueller said she also expects there to be an uptick in the number of home foreclosures, a consequence of people being out of work.

Overall, with fewer court cases and fewer tickets being written, officials warned revenues will be down.

Johnson said he is returning his staff to three eight-hour shifts instead of two 12-hours shifts, which he instituted at the beginning of the emergency as a way of protecting his staff in case there was an outbreak of the coronavirus in his department.

In the jail, Huber inmates — those who leave the jail to work and return at the end of the day — were sent home with monitoring bracelets or were furloughed if they had jobs or were near their release dates.

Huber rules are being reinstated, he said.

Jail visitations were limited to virtual visits and new inmates were kept quarantined for two weeks before being allowed into the general jail population.

His department also purchased an ultra-violet light device that can sanitize a jail cell in 17 minutes.

Just one Sheriff’s Office employee tested positive for the disease, Johnson said.

One inmate who entered the jail tested positive and was placed in a negative pressure cell, which allows outside air in but prevents potentially harmful particles from leaving the room.

Since the emergency began, courtrooms have been open to anyone who wants to attend a hearing, Mueller said, but the Supreme Court ordered that litigants must appear via phone or by video conferencing. 

That order remains in effect.

Mueller said she expects that will continue for “some time,” especially for at-risk population groups such as the elderly and those with certain underlying health conditions.

But jury trials could begin again as soon as June 1, she said.

A committee headed by Mueller and Judge Sandy Williams has made several recommendations to resume jury trials.

Those include following the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department’s Blueprint for Reopening by wearing masks, washing hands, staying home if sick and making hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and masks available at the courthouse.

The Clerk of Courts front counter in the courthouse will continue to operate with reduced hours until June 1, Mueller said.

Some workers will continue to work at home, “but we will be recalling non-essential staff unable to work remotely from home.”

  She said additional physical barriers will be installed in the courthouse and work spaces will be reconfigured to make social distancing easier. 

At county parks, public bathrooms, water fountains and playgrounds remain closed to the public, Planning and Parks Director Andrew Struck said. Portable toilets are available in some places, he said.

“We are still managing social distancing in all the parks.  Compliance will be important,” he said.  

Camping is allowed at Waubedonia Park in Fredonia but only by reservation and only family members can share a camp site. The park has always had restrictions on the number of campsites that can be used.

Golf courses are open and restricted golf cart use is allowed.  

“We are looking into the new state order and are planning to open the clubhouses as it is deemed safe to do. We still require social distancing under all circumstances,” Struck said.

The trail at Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve, which has been inundated with visitors in recent weeks, was washed out by Sunday’s rain, as were trails at other parks.

Crews are working to repair those trails this week, Struck said.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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