‘We have issued a number of warnings:’ Lethbridge police wary of physical distancing fines

Lethbridge police say when it comes to enforcing physical distancing mandates from Alberta Health Services amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re taking extra caution with handing out fines. 

“To date, we still have not issued any tickets and I’m happy to report that,” Lethbridge Police Services Inspector Jason Walper said Friday.

“We have issued a number of warnings. One to a local business at the referral of AHS and others in relation to calls.”

Officers are opting instead to educate those reported for disobeying those rules, as long as they comply with police.

LPS officials said Lethbridge isn’t the only city to practice discretion, with Calgary police releasing their total ticket numbers this week.

“They’ve issued only seven charges of non-compliance, so to speak, in a city of 1.3 million people,” Walper said. “So if you think about that per capita, if we would have issued violation tickets on all four of ours, per 100,000 people, we could be criticized for overstepping and being too harsh, given the financial situation that our province and our city and our citizens are in right now.”

Another level of pandemic enforcement has also been introduced this week, as federal health officials have begun to request compliance checks for those re-entering Canada from overseas.

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“They first assess these individuals that are returning to Canada and decide what type of compliance checks they would like to see,” Walper explained.

Officials say they’ve received three requests this week, and will proceed with phone calls and door knocking for those individuals, to ensure 14 days of isolation are completed.

And while the Lethbridge community has been largely successful maintaining safe distancing, Lethbridge police said with summer sun around the corner, they are prepared to take action and hand out the first fines.

“We’ve received very few complaints and we hope that continues, but we also know with the weather improving, and the length of time this goes on, we’re going to start to see more people deciding that they just want to get out and a break in the monotony,” Walper said. 

“Obviously if we don’t get compliance, the fine option is still available and the officers are aware of that as well.”

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