LOS ANGELES — Despite a major surge in coronavirus cases, many Southern California policing agencies say they're taking an education-first approach to the new curfew that took effect for much of the state Saturday rather than aggressive enforcement.
The limited stay-at-home order, which officials hope will help stem an unprecedented surge in new coronavirus cases, prohibits most nonessential activity outside the home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. in counties in the strictest purple tier of the state's four-phase color-coded reopening plan. Roughly 94% of Californians live in these counties, including Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego.
LA County also has a separate business curfew that requires restaurants and nonessential stores to close their doors to the public at 10 p.m., although takeout and delivery services can continue after that time.
The LA County Sheriff's Department is hoping people will comply with the new rules voluntarily and will turn to criminal enforcement measures only as "an extreme last resort," a policy it has observed since the first stay-at-home orders were issued in March, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Thursday in a statement.
"We trust in the community and rely on people to assess risk and take precautions as appropriate," he said.
Villanueva told KTTV-TV Channel 11 that the department will focus its efforts on nonessential businesses that don't close at 10 p.m. as required.
"If we get a complaint, we will obviously investigate, we'll respond to the location, we'll contact the owner and ask them to comply and then, if they don't, we have the option then of doing a citation," Villanueva said. "We can also prepare a criminal report for violating a health order, and we'll turn it over to the Department of Public Health and let them decide what to do with it."
Similarly, Los Angeles Police Department officers will help check whether businesses are complying with public health rules, including the curfew, the department said.
The city attorney's and mayor's offices will work to identify businesses that aren't following regulations, and disaster service workers will observe the establishments during business hours and open complaints if necessary, Capt. Stacy Spell, an LAPD spokesman, said in a statement.
"During off-hours, that list of locations will be provided to the department, and a call for service will be generated by (the) communications division directing a patrol unit and a supervisor to respond and determine if there is compliance," Spell said. "If the business is found to be noncompliant, a complaint application will be created."