Sterling police, Fire Department enforce lockdown order, report no rise in calls

Sterling Heights Sentry | Published April 18, 2020


Sterling Heights public safety officials say they are monitoring calls and incidents while Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” campaign continues to keep people at home while changing how many businesses operate.

But so far, police and fire leadership say there isn’t a whole lot of additional business to report, besides the efforts staff members are taking to stay safe.

Sterling Heights Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski said reports of criminal activity have declined as people have stayed at home.

“Over the last couple of weeks, we have not seen an increase, so that’s a good thing,” he said. “Our numbers of calls for service and incidents have been decreasing since the governor put the ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ (order). ... We really haven't seen an uptick in one area of crime in the city.” 

Dwojakowski described how the Police Department has adjusted to life amid the pandemic. He said they have changed how officers get their gear, and he said staff get regular health screenings and temperature checks. They also maintain social distancing guidelines, though it’s often a challenge, he said.

“We don’t have a sit-down roll call with 15 guys in a room anymore,” he said. “It’s a new normal … In the police world, we are a fraternal group. Cops are very close to each other. That communication, that interoffice communication, right now that’s very difficult to do.”

Dwojakowski said officers have been enforcing the governor’s stay-at-home order, adding that “we have done a lot of warnings like at playsets, courts and athletic areas,” as well as for congregations of people having informal get-togethers.

“The warnings have worked in all places with police,” the police chief said. “The fire marshal (has) done more of the businesses that were staying open. And some of them have received citations for those actions.”

Sterling Heights Fire Chief Chris Martin confirmed that the fire marshal has been active. Martin also explained that despite more Sterling Heights residents staying at home under the governor’s coronavirus orders, he has been surprised to see that there has been no uptick in fire calls to residences. 

Martin added that his department has also done health screenings of all its employees. 

“We do health screenings of all our employees,” Martin said. “Our guys are wearing masks in the station. They are using proper PPE (personal protective equipment) when they’re out in the field, and we’ve got some decontamination processes that we’re using to clean the ambulances and the fire stations as needed.”

The Fire Department recently released a set of cooking safety tips for people to follow, since more people are eating at home more often. Cooking, especially when not done carefully, is the biggest cause of fires at home. 

According to a Fire Department tip list, home chefs should be alert while cooking and refrain if tired or under the influence of alcohol, medicine or drugs. They should carefully monitor food while it’s baking in the oven or cooking on the range. It’s also a good idea to keep kids and pets away from the immediate cooking area, especially when heat is involved. 

Oven mitts and potholders are handy to have, but they may scald a hand while they’re wet and hot. Anything that can catch fire around the stove, like towels or papers, should be kept away.

If a pan starts to catch fire a bit, turn off the stove burner and — while using an oven mitt — snuff the flames with a lid. Fire extinguishers and water make a grease fires worse and more dangerous, so cooks should avoid using these to douse flames in the kitchen, the department added. 

If a fire starts in a microwave or oven, keep the door closed and turn off the oven or unplug the microwave if possible. Exit the kitchen, closing the door behind you if possible to keep the fire from spreading, and then call 911.

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