To prevent the spread of covid-19 as cases of the virus reach record numbers in the state, Little Rock police buildings will be closed to the public for the foreseeable future, according to a Twitter post from the Police Department.
The measure is intended to protect the public and department personnel from the spread of the virus, police spokesman Mark Edwards said.
Community members will have to rely on phone numbers posted by the department or the online reporting system for filing police reports or asking questions, Edwards said.
"To protect you, you don't even have to come down here -- and protect us," Edwards said.
According to the department's Twitter account, people in need of police assistance can call:
• (501) 371-4605 (front desk)
• (501) 371-4829 (non-emergency)
• (501) 918-4397 (telephone reporting unit)
Online reports can by filed by going to littlerock.gov/onlinereport.
The state reported 12,990 new cases of the virus Thursday, setting a record for the second day in a row and the seventh time in two weeks. The virus's rapid spread is largely attributed to the more-infectious omicron variant.
The Police Department's policy change stemmed from conversations among police leaders about the growing number of cases in the state, which has also affected the department, Edwards said. The decision to limit access was not tied to a certain case number threshold, and so Edwards said he could not say specifically when the policy would end.
"It had just gotten to a point where we wanted to be careful," Edwards said.
The measures echo steps taken earlier in the pandemic and gradually relaxed as case numbers fell, but Edwards could not say for certain when the department last restricted access to the stations because of the virus, or exactly when that policy was relaxed.
Edwards said he doesn't anticipate the change having much effect on the number of people making police reports, suggesting that the online reporting system implemented in the fall will remain secondary to reports by phone.
"Online reporting was set up to be a bonus, an added feature," Edwards said.
Edwards acknowledged that access to traffic reports -- which people must view in person at police headquarters -- will "more than likely" be impossible for the time being.
Some area law enforcement agencies, but not all, have taken steps to limit contact among their staffers and the public in reaction to the spread of the virus.
Since late last week, the Pulaski County sheriff's office has had the door to its lobby locked, but has allowed certain people who have business with the agency in, spokesman Lt. Cody Burk said.
"We're kind of screening people as they come in," Burk said.
The informal screening is intended to limit the number of people who enter the facility, and is based on what the person needs rather than any temperature monitoring or covid testing, Burk said.
The Arkansas State Police has not changed any of its procedures for people entering its headquarters, agency spokesman Bill Sadler said, but on Thursday it did change its rules on driving tests.
For the time being, people taking the practical driving test at state police headquarters must wear masks while in the cars with the people conducting the tests.
"Otherwise, we're open for business," Sadler said.
North Little Rock police have not changed any of their policies in response to the rise in cases and have no plans to unless Chief Patrick Thessing or Mayor Terry Hartwick decide it is in the community's best interest, agency spokeswoman Sgt. Carmen Helton said.