Local police told to enforce COVID-19 distancing rules

Governor Cuomo's "NYS on Pause Executive Order" has fines for violators
Posted at 5:44 PM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 03:52:07-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he has extended the ban on non-essential workers to remain at home until April 29. In addition, the governor said the fine for violating the state's social distancing protocol is increasing from $500 to $1,000.

You can read more about the governor's policy here.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said Erie County Central Police Services is advising all local police departments that they must investigate complaints about non-essential work and gatherings.

In many cases, said Flynn, local codes would apply during the health crisis which would mean the issuance of an appearance ticket. If the offense is a violation of Health Law under the "Pause" order, substantial fines could be assessed. Those cases would be prosecuted by the New York State Attorney General's Office, explained the D.A.

In addition, individuals not following police orders to disperse from non-essential gatherings, or acting in ways to cause harmful health effects to law enforcement, would still be prosecuted locally.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz shared the following graphic on social media explaining the different fees.

The Erie County Sheriff's Office told us it hasn't encountered any mass gatherings. The law enforcement agency said it is trying to educate offenders first before issuing any fines. Deputies are also checking businesses but haven't discovered any businesses not in compliance at this point.

Acting Niagara County Sheriff Michael Filicetti told reporter Ed Reilly that his department has gotten a small number of complaints about non-essential work and gatherings. Filicetti said his office receives complaints from 911 calls and from a New York State hot line set up specially to accept complaints from the public.

"We will dispatch a car and make an assessment. At this point, everyone has been voluntarily compliant with the complaints we been handing," said Filicetti.

Buffalo police are also keeping an eye out for social distancing violators. City spokesperson Mike DeGeorge said patrol and police recruits are watching city parks, which are only open for passive use. Ring Road around Delaware Park has been closed to traffic to discourage people from lingering. The city has also closed playgrounds and taken down basketball and soccer netting.

DeGeorge said police are continuing to monitor the situation and are warning people before issuing fines. Mayor Byron Brown had said previously he would rather see people voluntarily comply with social distancing rules so police would not have to resort to penalties.

Compliance has gotten better in the City of Buffalo the longer the "NYS on Pause" rules have been in effect, added DeGeorge.

If you wish to file a complaint about a business, location or incident in your community, you can do so by calling 1-833-789-0470