Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

Fullerton Police focus on educating over citations of new social distancing orders

People gather at the handball courts at Independence Park in Fullerton on March 28th. All sports courts were ordered closed on April 28. Photo Credit: Logan Martinez

 

While schools, workplaces and non-essential businesses are conforming to California’s stay-at-home mandate, many individuals are not. In Orange County, groups of people have flocked to parks, beaches and backyard barbecues.

Fullerton Police Department officers are taking an educational approach to enforcement of the stay-at-home order during this unprecedented pandemic. “Our goal is to educate the public,” said Fullerton Police Information Officer Sgt. Eric Bridges. “And not just the stay-at-home order but also the reason for the stay-at-home order, which is the underlying goal of slowing the spread of the coronavirus.” 

As of April 30, no social distancing related citations have been given out in Fullerton, Bridges said. Additionally, FPD has issued no citations to Fullerton non-essential businesses for being open in violation of city guidelines.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order is enforceable by California Government Code 8665 which states that “anyone who ‘refuses or willfully neglects’ to obey a lawful order is guilty of a misdemeanor and could be fined up to $1,000, imprisoned for six months or both.” 

Newsom said in March that social pressure is the best way to encourage social distancing. However, he came into conflict with Orange County officials last week when he ordered beaches to be closed in response to large crowds gathering on a hot weekend in April. Officials in beach cities say beachgoers were practicing social distancing even though crowds seemed large. Several Orange County beaches have since reopened for swimming, walking or jogging.

Most public parks in Fullerton remain open. A majority of park parking lots are closed but still remain accessible to pedestrians. The Department of Parks and Recreation is encouraging park and trail users to take proactive safety measures by maintaining a 6 feet apart. As of April 28, all park restrooms, playgrounds, fitness equipment, sports courts and picnic shelters are closed to the public. Closure is also extended to the Independence Park Skate Park.  

As of May 7, there have been 3,092 reported cases of COVID-19 and 66 deaths in Orange County, according to the Orange County Healthcare Agency. There have been 113 cases reported in Fullerton.

FPD says it will intervene in situations that are unsafe to public health. Bridges explained that oftentimes the police rely on the tips from concerned citizens about parties and other large social gatherings. 

“We got tips recently of a party that was going to be at a hotel so we went to that hotel and reminded the people of social distancing guidelines,” Bridges said. “So that is the type of enforcement, if you want to call it, that we are conducting at this time.”

Although these calls of concern are appreciated, police ask that citizens call law enforcement in an appropriate manner. “Obviously if it is a life threatening emergency, then by all means dial 911, but if it is not then we ask people to use our business line which helps out our dispatchers tremendously,” Bridges said. “You’d be surprised how many times people will call 911 for a non-emergency situation.” The FPD business line is 714-738-6800. 

On April 21, Fullerton City Council voted 3-2 on a regulation that requires all essential workers to wear face masks. Additionally, all customers who enter these facilities are required to wear a face mask. This ordinance also extended this regulation to banks in the city that do not have any partitions or barriers. 

Fullerton’s face mask regulation is enforceable under government code 8665 and can result in a citation if violated. “We don’t necessarily want to do that and it would be a last resort,” Bridges said.

FPD has also implemented social distancing within their department. On March 17, in a news release addressing COVID-19, the FPD announced they would be postponing all ride alongs, department tours, livescan appointments and community engagement activities such as Coffee with a Cop.  

The San Diego sheriff’s office reportedly issued 125 individual citations as of April 15, but most law enforcement agencies are taking the approach of education over enforcement.

“If we see people gathered together we will stop by, say hello and make sure everyone is aware of what is expected of them and why it is important for our community,” said Anaheim Police Chief Jorge Cisneros in a public statement on March 25. 

“We will always uphold our commitment to keep Anaheim safe but enforcement will not solve the coronavirus outbreak,” Cisneros added, “We need our community to come together, share a common purpose and take responsibility for one another.”