The city of Philadelphia yesterday announced that, due to the outbreak of COVID-19, police will no longer arrest those found committing a number of offences, including theft, burglary, prostitution, and drug offences, effective immediately.

Instead of arresting those found committing these crimes police will instead detain them long enough to confirm their identity and then release them. The police officer will then submit paperwork and, if charges are approved, an arrest warrant will later be obtained. The warrant ‘will be served at a later time, as conditions dictate’.

Police have the ability, if they believe that an offender is a threat to public safety, to inform a supervisor who will “review the totality of the circumstances , and in the interest of public safety, utilize discretion in determining the appropriate course of action”.

John McNesby, President of Philadephia’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, released a statement saying that the police supported the new policy and that it was released “to keep officers safe during this public-health crisis”.

The city also says that several plain-clothes units will be temporarily reassigned to uniform patrol duties.

Philadelphia currently only has 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Pennsylvania, the state in which Philadelphia is located, currently has 96, but concerns have been raised about the low level of testing for COVID-19 in America.