Richmond police prepared to enforce social distancing outdoors

Richmond City leaders warn lack of social distancing could result in park closures

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond Police are prepared to enforce Governor Ralph Northam’s Executive Order pertaining to the closure of non-essential businesses and social distancing.

Mayor Levar Stoney released information Wednesday outlining how the Richmond Police Department will address these situations as they arise.

  • FIRST COMPLAINT – Officers will identify the responsible party, educate them regarding the governor’s order and document the interaction in an offense report. This will include providing the responsible party with a copy of the executive order.
  • SECOND COMPLAINT – Officers will warn the responsible party that continued violation will result in a Class 1 misdemeanor and document the interaction in an offense report.
  • THIRD COMPLAINT – Officers will contact supervision for assistance and proceed with criminal charges, if appropriate.

Stoney said egregious or extreme cases will be handled differently.

“We have not seen the peak of COVID-19 in the city just yet,” Stoney said. “That’s why we believe it’s very important each person plays a part, in a role, in preventing the spread of this disease.”

The City of Richmond has recommended, per the CDC, no group gatherings of more than 10 people.

Richmond Police have increased patrols at area parks and will be issuing verbal warnings if officers see large group gatherings. However, if Richmonders decide to ignore that suggestion, there could be more punitive measures.

“It certainly could end up being a summons for violating the executive order,” said RPD Chief Will Smith. “Ultimately, if it becomes a problem that’s difficult for us to manage then certainly we have the ability to close the parks.”

While it’s a situation no one, including city leaders wants to happen, Stoney is urging the public to listen to their recommendations and use common sense.

“We understand the importance of everyone wanting to get to the parks, but right now we really have to practice good social distancing,” said Richmond Parks, Recreations & Community Facilities Director Chris Frelke.

“We’re looking at good weather Friday and Saturday; we request that you do not gather in group of more than 10 people at Pony Pasture, Texas Beach, along the river,” Stoney added.

The Mayor said those are just a few of the areas his office has gotten phone calls about in regards to large groups of people.

“We also encourage people to not have close contact with people outside of your family, participate in team sports,” Stoney said. “That means playing basketball or pickleball, you name it. We need to stop that across the city because you can pass the virus that way.”

Stoney said if a Richmond resident sees an establishment out of compliance with the executive order and is concerned for public health, they should call the Richmond Police non-emergency number at (804) 646-5100. This also applies to residents who see large groups not practicing social distancing in city parks and outdoor spaces.

“Concerned residents should not call 911 in these cases,” Stoney said. “While non-compliance with social distancing guidelines puts the community at risk, 911 lines should be reserved for emergencies.”

“Just listen!” urged Candace, who was visiting Brown’s Island Tuesday.

Candace and her family took a trip to Brown’s Island after being cooped up inside for several days like many other families.

“With two small children you don’t want to be inside for too long,” added Stephanie Rowland, another parent.

These families have been monitoring the developments as the virus spreads in Virginia and said it’s important for everyone to pay attention.

“In order to get a hold on it, a grip on it, we need to come together as a community and stay home if need be,” said Rich, who was on Brown’s Island.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being outside,” said Josh Rowland. “It sounds like that’s safer germ wise. So just keeping your heads up and trying to maintain a safer distance.”

“We’re not seeking to be punitive, we’re seeking to protect the lives of all Richmonders,” Stoney said. “Every resident has a role to play.”

The city plans to place message boards and signs in high traffic areas around the parks reminding people about social distance.

For more information about COVID-19 in Virginia, click on the following links below:

Mayor Stoney, city leaders to give update on need for social distancing

Richmond Mayor, Parks Director hold press conference on social distancing in public spaces

Posted by NBC12 on Tuesday, March 24, 2020

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