Officers ready to crack down on shops defying emergency orders: Saunders
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders delivers remarks and takes questions from reporters at a press conference in Toronto, on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Christopher Katsarov)
Miriam Katawazi , CP24.com
Published Tuesday, March 24, 2020 5:31PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 25, 2020 12:50PM EDT
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said his officers are ready to take action if emergency orders due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) are not followed.
Officers will be driving around the city starting at midnight to ensure that non-essential businesses are in compliance with the provincial order to shut down.
“My officers will be driving and they will be looking and if they see non-compliance then they will do their duty,” Saunders told reporters Tuesday.
“The provincial state of emergency put into place certain enforcement capacity, which means if people are in noncompliance, we can take action.”
The chief’s message was made just after the total number of COVID-19 cases in Toronto rose to 280. The city reported its first COVID-19-related death Sunday.
“This is a health issue, all you’re doing is your putting people in harm’s way if you’re open [and] so by being closed it gives us the opportunity to really flatten this curve,” he said.
He said officers have been visiting different businesses this past week with advice “with respect to staying open or not staying open.”
The police chief said the city’s bylaw officers are the lead on the issue, and any matter of non-compliance should be first reported to 311.
“If it needs to be escalated then definitely the Toronto police will be a participant,” he said, adding that fines can range from $750 up $100,000 daily.
He said in some cases it could be that people just don’t understand, but in certain situations businesses could just be defiant.
He said non-compliance would be a charge under the Provincial Offences Act unless it escalates to being criminal.
“We’re dealing with this pandemic, we are doing our best to keep this city safe, the last thing we want to do is apprehend people that are in non-compliance with this issue,” Saunders said. “The concern is health.”
When the province asked restaurants and eateries to shut down dine-in service, Saunders said there was a 97 per compliance rate.
“That kind of shows that a lot of people are getting it,” he said. “I think with this new enforcement piece, I think the vast majority will definitely comply and they understand the gravity of what’s going on.
Toronto police will also be monitoring areas around the vacant businesses during the closures in case they become “vulnerable to crime.”
Saunders said that there has been no spike in crime in Toronto, but incidents are still taking place despite the health crisis.
“We’re [also] getting more medical calls and we are urging people to contact the proper resources because our call-takers we want them available for those emergency calls,” he said.