Windsor-Essex County mayors, police warn of stricter COVID-19 enforcement
WPS said 700 warnings have been issued since the onset of the pandemic
Mayors from across Essex County addressed the public Wednesday with a stern warning: they are done playing nice with people who break public health rules; enforcement starts now.
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said the City of Windsor, along with Windsor Police Service (WPS) and the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, agree that police and bylaw enforcement of COVID-19 protocols should be significantly increased beginning immediately.
"We agreed that the time for general education was over and we agreed that enforcement blitzes would be coming and that charges will be laid to those who violate these important public health rules," said Dilkens in the virtual public meeting.
This afternoon Mayor Dilkens will join Essex County Warden McNamara, <a href="https://twitter.com/TheWECHU?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TheWECHU</a> Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Ahmed and mayors from across County of Essex to give an update on our response to the pandemic’s second wave. Please watch live at 3 p.m. on <a href="https://t.co/YsclEV0Irs">https://t.co/YsclEV0Irs</a>. <a href="https://t.co/1f5hFRLD4s">pic.twitter.com/1f5hFRLD4s</a>—@CityWindsorON
The meeting was called following the tightening of restrictions when the region was bumped into the province's COVID-19 yellow zone — or "protect" category on Monday.
Dilkens said Windsor officers responded to a number of COVID-19 compliance complaints over the weekend, but still no charges were laid.
"They went to a number of locations but everyone was compliant ... so even though they received complaints, the complaints were not found to be valid but police did attend and were prepared to issue tickets," said Dilkens
LaSalle Mayor Marc Bondy said he is prepared to step up enforcement and fines for residents as well.
"If you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing, if you're not following the guidelines, and the police are called, they will be visiting," said Bondy. "I caution everyone, this is not a threat. It's just that we have rules to follow."
Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara echoed Dilkens and Bondy's calls for stricter enforcement, but also pointed to enforcement inconsistencies among regional police services.
Outside Windsor and LaSalle, the majority of the county's police services are provided by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).
"You can imagine if the City of Windsor or LaSalle and Amherstburg are issuing tickets, if there are offences ... and it's not so much in the rest of the county, well I don't want them to say 'Well let's go to Essex,'" to skirt a ticket, explained McNamara.
McNamara said he would discuss the enforcement issue at Tecumseh Town Council Wednesday night, so bylaw enforcement and police are clear on their ticketing stance.
In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for Windsor Police said the vast majority of the communities covered by the service understand and respect the direction provided by health care professionals.
"Since the onset of the pandemic our Service has only been required to issue a small number of charges (3) against violators. Over 700 warnings have been issued since the onset of the pandemic and associated legislation," reads the statement.
Currently fines issued by Windsor and LaSalle police services start at $750.