‘This is what we need to do’: Richmond Police crackdown on social distancing

Coronavirus

(WRIC) — Law enforcement agencies have a new beat on their hands: enforcing social distancing.

Richmond Police say they are stepping up their patrols at area parks to enforce Governor Ralph Northam’s COVID-19 executive order.

Social distancing is simple to do. Just stay SIX feet apart from each other and don’t gather in groups of 10 or more. Police Chief Will Smith says it’s a responsibility, not only for your health but for everyone around you.

“There are people who are at risk of losing their life because of this virus. And everything we can do to help people stay alive and go on and have a healthy, happy life after this, is what we need to do,” Smith said.

RPD is asking for people to voluntarily comply because it’s for the greater good of community safety. If not, they will address people who don’t obey social distancing guidelines. First officers will talk to individuals/responsible parties then things could escalate from there.

The first complaint will be a verbal warning educating the people involved about the benefits of social distancing. The officer will also document the interaction and provide them with a copy of the governor’s executive order.

The second complaint will be a warning that if they continue to violate the order, it could result in a class one misdemeanor.

The officer will then document this offense as well.

For the third complaint, officers will contact supervision for assistance and proceed with criminal charges – if appropriate.

RPD’s Police Chief says extreme cases could result in more serious actions like a summons, but he hopes it doesn’t get to that point.

His department is urging people to listen to their recommendations and use “common sense.”

“I know this quarantine and situation we’re under is difficult, but we need to make sure that we do our very best to make sure that we can stem the tide of this virus early so we can get back to a normal life quickly,” Smith said.

According to RPD, since March 24, the city has received 11 calls about people not following social distancing guidelines.

If anyone sees people hanging out in large groups and is concerned about public health, police are asking you don’t call 911, but instead call their non-emergency line at (804) 646-5100.

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