Smiths Falls has directed its police and bylaw officers to patrol the streets to make sure everybody is following new emergency orders enacted by the province.
The town announced this week that the Smiths Falls Police Service and the town’s bylaw officers will now patrol the downtown area, all parks and residential areas throughout town in an effort to educate the public on the new rules enacted earlier this week.
The goal is to “ensure compliance with new provincial orders related to gatherings of more than (five) persons, operations of non-essential businesses, use of park facilities and equipment as well as the quarantine order that has been issued,” the town said in a release.
The decision was made after some locals apparently weren’t taking the provincial directives seriously.
“Although the majority of our citizens understand how important it is that we all do our part to ‘flatten the curve’ and reduce the rate of infection in our community, further public education and possible enforcement is required to deal with isolated incidents,” Mayor Shawn Pankow said in a statement.
“The province introduced legislation to help empower our bylaw officers in the fight against COVID-19. As a result, both police and bylaw officers in Smiths Falls will be visiting businesses and patrolling our streets and green spaces to help educate the public and ensure proper compliance of the orders.”
The provincial government declared a state of emergency on March 17, which has since been extended to April 13, and with it many emergency orders have been issued.
Some of the new emergency orders enacted by the province in order to address the COVID-19 outbreak include the closure of non-essential businesses, prohibiting organized public events and social gatherings of more than five people, and stopping price gouging on necessary goods such as disinfectant products.
New legislation gives temporary power to bylaw officers and police to charge people and businesses if they break any of these new rules. Failing to comply with any of these emergency orders is an offence under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, and so is the failure to identify oneself when asked.
“These powers are for use where persons or businesses are found to be violating emergency orders,” the town’s release said.
“The Smiths Falls Police along with our bylaw officers would like to educate and make people and businesses aware of the provincial orders,” Police Chief Mark MacGillivray said in a statement.
“Charges and fines are a last resort for those who continue to ignore the safety and health of others in the community.”
The town is encouraging anyone who suspects a rule violation to call the Smiths Falls Police Service non-emergency line at 613-283-0357.
Complaints regarding safe distancing practices and precautions of businesses that are open should be referred to the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit, officials added. The complaints line is 613-283-2740 ext 2499.
These complaints will be directed to health inspectors for followup.