San Francisco police have begun issuing citations to violators of the shelter-in-place order requiring non-essential businesses to close and residents to stay home except for the most crucial reasons.
Police Chief Bill Scott said at a noon press conference on Friday that officers had cited one person in the last 24 hours for failing to heed a warning about the order.
“The last time I was in front of you I predicted there would come a time where we have to cite,” Scott told the public. “That time has come, and we have begun citing.”
Scott also said officers had cited a non-essential business for staying open, but a police spokesperson later said that business had in fact only been admonished alongside five others.
The news marks a change in position for the San Francisco Police Department, which had initially focused on educating the public rather than issuing any citations at all.
Before the order first went into effect on March 17, Scott asked the public for “voluntary compliance.” Now, the chief said police will warn violators only once before issuing a citation.
“I’ll make this very clear, particularly for the business owners in our city,” Scott said. “If we have to go back, we are not going to ask twice.”
Violators of the order could face a misdemeanor as well as a fine, imprisonment, or both.
After the press conference, the San Francisco Examiner reported that the one person who police cited was an 86-year-old anti-abortion advocate outside a Planned Parenthood in Bernal Heights.
Scott made the announcement on the same day that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in San Francisco jumped by 47 to 497, while deaths from the virus remained at seven.
While residents have been ordered to stay indoors, Scott said crime has been “drastically reduced,” with a 26 percent decline in overall crime since March 17 compared to last year.
911 calls have also fallen about 20 percent since the order went into effect, while non-emergency calls for service have remained steady, according to the Department of Emergency Management.
The shelter-in-place order, which was revised earlier this week to include additional restrictions, can be viewed here.
This story has been updated to include additional information and to correct a statement from the chief about a business being cited.