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Coronavirus Crime: New Pandemic Protocols Allow Petty Criminals To Avoid Jail Time

AMADOR COUNTY (CBS13) — New coronavirus pandemic protocols in Amador County let petty criminals avoid jail when arrested.

The Amador County Jail is required by law to reduce its inmate population to slow the spread of coronavirus. The jail will now only accept people who commit very serious crimes.

Additionally, under the statewide emergency bail order that was put into place on Monday, bail is required to be set at $0 for most offenses except specified crimes.

Local businesses worry this will empower petty criminals, after a costly crime spree over the weekend in which an 18-year-old man broke glass at several businesses in Jackson.

Surveillance video caught the suspect red-handed, as he was kicking in glass at the Biggest Little Kitchen Store, which was closed due to the shelter-in-place order.

"It hurts that someone is going to go out there and do something like this and destroy our building," said Travis Williams, who owns the store with his family.

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Williams said the frustrating part was that police tried to stop this. Just hours before his shop was damaged, the suspect broke glass at another business.

Jackson Police said they tracked him down and took him to the Amador County Jail, hoping they would hold him. The answer was no, not under new coronavirus protocols. The suspect was released.

"It's almost like a little bit of a slap in the face that someone can go out right now in these times and do something like that," Williams said.

The jail is required to reduce the inmate population to prevent the virus from spreading. The only people taken in right now must have committed a very violent felony, domestic violence or DUI with priors. With the $0 bail policy in place, a suspect is cited then released.

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"It is tough being closed. Our hands are tied and the cops' hands are tied. There's not a whole lot we can do," Williams said.

According to the Sheriff's Office, the inmate population at the jail has dropped 15%. Downtown businesses worry the new protocol will embolden petty criminals.

Brian Dunn works at Brickhouse Brews which closes at 6:30 p.m. He worries about after-hours crime.

"We're thinking about boarding up and say screw it. But we have to stay open but we want to stay open," he said.

Businesses are doing their best to deal with a "get out jail free" scenario no one expected.

"In our eyes, we're going to make the best of it, do anything we can. You cross your fingers that no one else gets it worse than we did," Williams said.

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