Law enforcement aims to educate during reopening phase one, not arrest

Reporter: Rich Kolko Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
FILE photo of a Naples patrol car in downtown Naples in March 2020. Credit: WINK News.

Restaurants are starting to open, but they are limited to serving only at 25% capacity.

Law enforcement agencies in Southwest Florida and statewide plan to educate businesses about the phase one reopening in Florida Monday. The goal is not to arrest.

“The last thing we want to have to do is to go into enforcement,” said Master Sergeant Patrick O’Grady with the Cape Coral Police Department.

Restaurants are opening, but police will not be patrolling. However, they will respond to any calls that come in if somebody sees overcrowding.

“If we receive a complaint from an individual stating that a business or restaurant is not following the guidelines of the 25% capacity,” said Claudette Bennett, a public information officer with Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office. “We will be sending deputies out to educate the owner on those guidelines, so they can abide by them.”

Instead, local police and sheriff’s deputies will take reports and forward the information to the Department of Business & Professional Regulation in Florida. This is the agency that will follow up for action.

“We’re not gonna be telling customers to leave,” Bennett said.

Owners or managers are the ones responsible for determining the 25% capacity and how to seat the customers.

“There’s going to be a lot of people that, ‘I don’t wanna go out, and I don’t wanna go to restaurants because I’ve been cooped up for 40 something days, and I’ve been able to go to restaurants,’” said. “But be patient with the restaurants, and let them look at the scale that they’re supposed to be working at. We’re hoping all this goes well.” added O’Grady

And so far, so good. Local law enforcement we’ve spoken to say they have yet to take any overcrowding calls.


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