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How do law enforcement handle state’s coronavirus restrictions?

By Shavonne Potts

shavonne.potts@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Area law enforcement say they will follow executive orders implemented by Gov. Roy Cooper when it comes to enforcing limited social interaction.

On Monday, Cooper lowered the threshold on large gatherings to ban crowds of more than 50 people and ordered that other businesses, including salons and gyms, must be closed. According to the governor’s order issued last week, which closed schools, restaurant dining areas and bars, failure to comply with gathering restrictions may result in prosecution for a misdemeanor offense.

Appropriate local law enforcement agencies and district attorneys are generally responsible for enforcement of the order provisions, said Kelly Haight Connor, a communications manager with the NC Department of Health and Human Services.

Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes said officers are responding to violations of orders in a reactionary manner and if they are reported by someone in the community.

He said officers are primarily focused on detecting and preventing crime, as they do every day, as part of their routine patrol duties.

“If we respond to a large group complaint or an open establishment and find that there is an apparent violation of either order, our action is to notify the event sponsor or the establishment management of what directions the orders contain and warn there may be a violation,” Stokes said.

The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, meanwhile, says it will start by issuing warnings.

“Our office would issue verbal warnings with a copy of the governor’s order.  If that does not take care of the situation, we would then consult with the District Attorney’s Office for further direction on possible charges,” said Rowan Sheriff’s Capt. John Sifford.

Both Stokes and Rowan Sheriff Kevin Auten have said they’ve amended arrest protocols to include issuing citations for some offenses when possible. Auten said that request initially occurred because of jail overcrowding at the Rowan County Detention Center.

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