London man charged for scaling fence onto soccer pitch in weekend COVID-19 bylaw sweep

It was the warmest weekend so far this year and London's bylaw officers were busy responding to concerns and issuing warnings. Only one man was charged.

In the 132 other encounters with bylaw officers, everyone else was let off with a warning

The only charge laid this past weekend was because a man allegedly scaled a fence onto a city soccer pitch. (Colin Butler/CBC)

London bylaw officers issued 132 warnings this weekend and charged one man for failing to comply with provincial emergency orders meant to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

The individual who was charged went over the top, so to speak. Officers allege the man scaled a fence to get onto a city soccer pitch. 

"It was on a soccer field that was 100 per cent fenced and locked. The one charge that was very obvious. The only way to get on that field was to scale a fence," said Orest Katolyk, London's chief by-law officer.

Katolyk said, by contrast, the vast majority of people bylaw officers spoke to go off with a warning.

"They were mainly persons sitting on benches, taking a break from walking and cycling and such. People that are out with their children, kind of kicking a ball around and many minors who saw this as an opportunity to get out."

While some enjoyed the sunshine, others were watching

The City of London received 150 complaints of people allegedly breaking the rules around physical distancing this weekend. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

The weekend saw some of London's warmest weather of the year so far. Many people in the city went outdoors to get their first real taste of spring, but while people were taking advantage of the weather, some were watching for those who broke the rules and reported it to the city's COVID-19 hotline. 

Over the 48 hours between Saturday and Sunday, bylaw enforcement received 150 complaints, an average of one complaint every 20 minutes, Katolyk said. 

It brings the total number of complaints to 6,500 since the emergency orders began eight weeks ago. The city's bylaw department normally handles 8,000 complaints all year.

One of the most common complaints is people congregating in groups of five or more in city parks. Officers are able to deal with them efficiently because they've started using megaphones.

"It certainly turns heads," he said. "Where we're communicating with somebody sitting on a park bench in say, Gibbons Park, it's obvious what we're doing. So others that are sitting on benches are getting the message also and getting up and continuing to walk or cycle through the park."

Katolyk said social distancing scofflaws are more the exception than the rule in London and, for the most part, people tend to cooperate.

"People were very understanding of why we have to send the message that we're sending," he said. "There's lots and lots of compliance out there."