'Nine or 10' fines handed out for allegedly breaking emergency rules, premier says
Police forces across the province say they’re focusing on educating people more than handing out tickets
Officers across the province have handed out "nine or 10" fines to people who have allegedly violated the emergency declaration order, Premier Blaine Higgs said Tuesday.
That number includes tickets handed out by RCMP, municipal police and provincial enforcement officers, the province confirmed.
While speaking to reporters Tuesday, Higgs noted the numbers don't include people who have been warned by officers. He estimated the fines have totalled between $3,000 and $3,500 so far.
The premier questioned whether people are complying because of the threat of receiving a ticket or because "they're seeing the need and they want to be part of the solution."
"I feel like it's a combination," Higgs said.
"Issuing some tickets brings it to bear that it's real. We're not joking here. We must do what's necessary to get people's attention."
As the number of positive COVID-19 cases increases in the province, Higgs has warned people could face fines or even "confinement" if they don't follow the emergency declaration order.
In other cases, people have been calling their local police to report violations.
RCMP has issued tickets, unclear how many
It's not clear which police forces have handed out tickets. Several police forces contacted by CBC News on Tuesday wouldn't specify how many tickets they've given out, if any.
A spokesperson for the New Brunswick RCMP confirmed that its officers have handed out tickets, but wouldn't specify how many.
"Issuing tickets is only one part of our enforcement efforts and does not reflect all of the work that is being done collaboratively with communities, our policing partners and the province," RCMP Cpl. Jullie Rogers-Marsh wrote in an email, after she was asked why the information couldn't be revealed.
Rogers-Marsh also declined to say what people who received tickets were doing and whether people are receiving a warning before they get a ticket.
"I cannot comment on our operations or tactics," Rogers-Marsh said.
"Our police officers are using their discretion and are issuing tickets where appropriate."
Next door in Nova Scotia, RCMP in that province issued a news release Tuesday afternoon, saying that 54 people have been charged "with offences related to the current provincial state of emergency" so far.
'Several calls a day' about COVID-19 rule breakers
Police forces in Woodstock, Kennebecasis Valley, Saint John, Fredericton, Miramichi and Bathurst also declined to say how many tickets their officers have given, if any.
According to Bathurst Police Chief Ernie Boudreau, people are breaking the rules by carpooling, gathering together, not physically distancing and picking up groceries with people in the car, among other offences.
He said his department has been receiving "several calls a day" related to COVID-19, with members of the public reporting "alleged infractions."
"The order will be enforced by officers on a case-to-case basis," Boudreau wrote in an email.
"They will have discretion as there are so many circumstances or variations being reported."
'Don't take the law into your own hands'
In Edmundston, police chief Alain Lang said his force hasn't handed out any tickets yet.
"We're not there to give tickets or citations to everybody," Lang said in an interview.
"What we're promoting is education. We encourage people and we keep supporting them."
While his officers have been fielding about one COVID-19-related call per 12-hour shift, Lang encouraged people not to confront those who they suspect are violating the emergency declaration order. He said they should call authorities instead.
"Sometimes it may create a little bit of frustration between neighbours or between friends or between people," Lang said.
"So I just let people know, don't take the law in your own hands."
In Saint John, officers are also more focused on educating people than handing out tickets, according to Saint John Police Force spokesperson Jim Hennessy. He wouldn't say whether Saint John officers have handed out any tickets.
He said the police force's non-emergency line has been receiving calls from people who have questions about what they can and can't do. If they can't answer their questions, they direct them to the province's COVID-19 information line.
"For the most part, it's just been, 'I want to take my dog out for a walk, is that OK?'" Hennessy said.
"Like Dr. Russell has stated, that's fine as long as you stay within your neighbourhood. Distance yourself from anybody you may see while on that walk."