Winnipeg physical distancing patrols net zero fines during 1st weekend of enforcement
City of Winnipeg staff hit parks and recreational facilities in effort to curb spread of COVID-19
They fanned out in dozens of parks, playgrounds and playing fields in Winnipeg, but city staff didn't issue a single ticket during the first three days of enforcing the province's physical distancing regulations.
Patrollers went through 234 parks between Saturday and Monday, according to a city news release.
They issued 12 verbal warnings for social distancing, one for gathering in a large group and no fines.
Staff also warned residents to stay away from closed public facilities 32 times over the Easter weekend, the city said.
The biggest concentration of those was skateboard parks.
"If we don't start seeing some some better behaviour in some of these areas, we're going to start looking at higher levels of enforcement," said Jason Shaw, the city's assistant chief of emergency management.
Shaw says that could come in the form of fines or putting barricades around the facilities.
The patrols and enforcement were authorized under the Winnipeg's state of local emergency declaration and existing bylaws.
Made up of community service ambassadors and bylaw enforcement officers, the patrols can hand out fines of up to $1,000 in city parks and other recreational properties.
The province can also levy fines in an effort to ban public and outdoor gatherings of more than ten people.
The city said the patrols had 819 "positive interactions" over the three day period.
"It is encouraging to see the positive engagement our Community Service Ambassadors had with citizens over the weekend and no penalties handed out," mayor Brian Bowman said in the release.
Shaw says it's imperative there is a constant conversation among families about adhering to physical distancing rules, especially as coming warm weather tempts people to head outdoors.
"We want to make sure that folks understand that the playgrounds and the skate parks are off limits and we really are hoping for collaboration and coordination, so that we don't have to look at that second and third option of fines," Shaw said.
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Over 60 city staff are assigned to the patrols during the health crisis and have been directed to physically distance themselves from residents when they are working.
The city is encouraging residents who see people breaking the province's public health orders or city park amenities closures are advised to contact it's 311 phone line.