UPDATED 11:10 AM PT — Sunday, May 31, 2020
Police departments are urging Americans not to call 911 to report social distancing violations. According to multiple offices across the country, the calls tie up emergency response services.
Counties have reported higher numbers of calls asking for police to break up groups, which takes away resources from more immediate emergency incidents.
“People are upset: they see someone playing volleyball, they see a group within less than six feet and they’re calling our 911 number. Please don’t do that. If somebody is violating the county commission rules or the governor’s rules, it’s important and we should know about it. We will come out and we will take care of it, but it is not an emergency. It is not a 911 call.”
– Sheriff William Snyder, Martin County Sheriff’s Office
Police have advised those who are concerned about proper social distancing to call state and regional health departments, as well as non-emergency lines.
Meanwhile, state authorities have said they aren’t as pressed about penalizing those who fail to comply with stay-at-home orders.
Police officers have expressed they would rather educate individuals and encourage them to voluntarily follow directions. Additionally, authorities claimed they are not equipped to handle so many non-emergency situations.
“It’s very similar to, I would say, driving: everybody thinks they’re an exceptional driver, and there are a lot of really bad drivers out there,” explained Portland Police Lieutenant Tina Jones. “Some people would love for us to go out and issue citations to every single person who is violating every single rule of the road, and that’s just not ever going to happen.”
In the meantime, departments have asked people who see others not social distancing to educate their neighbors instead of relying on law enforcement.