Blue said upon checking on the residence of a suspected violation, an officer may deliver an informational flier about the importance of the order without making any arrests.
“Our position has not been to go out and take enforcement action unless we absolutely have to, but instead to remind folks of the order and what it means, what’s permissible and what’s not,” Blue said.
Although there have been at least two incident reports filed where people broke the stay-at-home order, the Chapel Hill Police Department has yet to charge anyone in relation to breaking the order.
Blue said responding to complaints by concerned neighbors and observing violations were both common ways for officers to find violations. He said officers may monitor certain areas or businesses where violations of the order have been observed to ensure that no further enforcement actions must be taken.
“We’ve had a number of people calling on their neighbor, calling on neighborhood kids, but we have not charged anybody,” Blue said.
Blue said to his knowledge, there have been no repeat calls for the same violators in Chapel Hill. Although he said the department has thus far been warning first-term violators instead of seeking charges, any violation may be charged as a class two misdemeanor.
In Hillsborough, a man was charged on April 5 for violating the governor’s executive order after officers responded twice to the same block party of 30-50 people.
However, Andy Simmons, a lieutenant for the Hillsborough Police Department, said repeated violations like this are not the norm.
“We typically show up and assess the situation, and if we need to give a warning we give a warning,” Simmons said. “If there’s no violation, we continue to move on.”
Alicia Stemper, a spokesperson for the Orange County Sheriff’s office, said the county is warning residents found in first violation of the order and asking them to go home.
“Our goal is to have the community comply with the stay-at-home order,” Stemper said. “That’s what’s safest for all of us. We’d much rather educate and encourage folks to comply than need to resort to anything like enforcement.”
Blue said in addition to contacting CHPD at its headquarters or calling 911, concerned community members can reach out to the Orange County Health Department if they suspect a violation of the order.
Officials are hopeful the stay-at-home order will outlast the worst of the pandemic and slow the virus’ spread. Blue said the low number of reported violations make him hopeful that the policy will be effective in Chapel Hill.
“We’ve been successful as a community. Not just the police department, or town hall or the health department or the county,” Blue said. “It’s all of us. We are being successful because people are complying and holding each other accountable.”
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