Honolulu Police Department Deputy Chief John McCarthy said since the start of the pandemic in March, HPD has issued roughly 60,000 coronavirus-related enforcement violations.
“That’s not necessary citations but violations. So a person may be given a citation for multiple violations, whether it be non-essential travel and not wearing a face mask, or being in a park enclosure and not having a face mask, not social distancing. So you can get multiple violations in one citation,” he explained.
Whatever the violation, the penalty is the same. And while most violators are not arrested, it is within the officer’s discretion to do so.
“It’s a full misdemeanor, so it’s subject to up to a $5,000 fine and up to a year in jail. But one of the things that people don’t realize is it’s a criminal citation. It’s in lieu of an arrest. The citation you get is equivalent to that arrest, so if you’re convicted, you actually have a criminal record,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy clarified that anyone who cannot maintain six feet of social distance is required by law to wear a mask. There are exceptions for people who are exercising, have a medical disordered, or are with people who live in the same household.
“Our biggest violations, our biggest source of complaints has been social distancing, wearing of mask, and large gathering. Large gatherings, more recently in the last week or two, has been the big one,” he said.
McCarthy urged people not to gather this weekend for Halloween, warning that HPD has staffed extra personnel for the holiday to enforce the rules across the island.
HPD officers have also had their hands full with COVID-19 quarantine enforcement. McCarthy said that up to now, their approach has been more reactive, with officers following up on calls from concerned residents reporting a quarantine violator, because there are simply too many people to keep track of.
“The numbers are too high for us. I think last time I checked it was about 20,000 on Oahu that should have been in quarantine to some degree. We can’t check and knock on everybody’s doors and make those calls. But we’ll be able to somehow strategically you know, work smart and not hard and try to check on these people and make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” he said.
Anyone who would like to report a possible COVID-19 enforcement violation can call 808-723-3900 or email HPDcovidenforce@honolulu.gov.
McCarthy joined Spotlight Hawaii, a new series from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that shines a spotlight on issues affecting our islands, today for a livestream and took viewer questions.
Watch via the video above.
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation with guests. Click here to watch previous conversations.