Local law enforcement is fielding a large number of calls about Minnesota’s stay-at-home order, but most questions and concerns are better directed to the state, several law enforcement agencies said this week.
Officials say the best way to reduce the strain on local law enforcement is by following the order, which tells Minnesotans to stay home unless for essential needs like medical care and food or if they work in a similarly essential business.
Prior Lake Police Chief Steve Frazer this week asked for the community’s help in ensuring children are also following social distancing guidelines to avoid large groups and stay apart from other households.
“Our staff has experienced numerous calls every day since the order has been in place about our youth congregating in public, participating in close contact sports, and being out at night in groups,” he wrote.
“As the parents and guardians of these children, I ask for your help to reduce the number of youth gathering in groups. This not only protects the public’s health but, also, reduces the strain on our police resources.”
Jordan Police Chief Brett Empey said the department gets an average of three reports of possible stay-home violations per day. Police respond by advising the individuals involved of the restrictions.
“Local law enforcement is vested with the responsibility of upholding the governor’s executive order,” Empey said. “We’re trying to get people to comply with the order rather than take enforcement action.”
Residents looking to report a concern about the stay-home order can call the state hotline at 651-793-3746 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scott County Sheriff Luke Hennen said it’s not uncommon for locals to dial 911 with questions even when there’s not a pandemic, such as during a power outage a couple months ago, when hundreds of people called to report it. Those calls should have gone to the electric company, Hennen said.
“It’s good they’re calling and reporting it, because they trust us,” he said, adding the overall number of emergency calls fielded by dispatchers has dropped significantly now that many are safe at home.
Even so, Hennen said there’s a knowledge gap of who to call with questions related to COVID-19. Can you go to your cabin? Better check with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety on that and not dial 911, the sheriff said. Answers to common questions are also available online at mn.gov/governor/covid-19/faq.
The sheriff’s office has found that people generally want to follow Gov. Tim Walz’s stay at home order, a post on the agency’s Facebook page said.
Some calls are to report groups of people congregating, too, but Hennen cautioned it might be easy to mistake a family out for a walk as a group disobeying the guidelines.
“Law enforcement agencies will seek to educate instead of taking an enforcement approach,” the agency said. “However, law enforcement can issue citation or arrest is someone refuses to comply.”