The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalos’s Bylaw Services team will be responding to COVID-19 with education before enforcement with officers directed to educate first and reprimand second.
Officers completed 1,319 park patrols, and responded to 26 incidents of individuals disobeying park closures or violating public health orders between March 15 and April 15.
No monetary fines or penalties have been handed out yet, as all incidents encountered were enforced through education, verbal warnings and voluntary compliance.
Fines of up to $1,200 for violating a public health order can be issued.
“Let me be clear, education is our desired approach for enforcement at this time. We want people to be aware of the new rules in place and make the voluntary decision to comply. But if time goes on and we encounter incidents of clear and repeated violations to public health orders, we do have a responsibility to the PHA, and to our community, to respond accordingly and enforce the rules through monetary fines and penalties,” said Aaron Anderson, RMWB Supervisor of Bylaw Services.”
They are reminding residents that saying home to stay safe is no longer a piece of advice as it is now associated with public health ordered issued by the Chief Medical Officer, which are now legally enforceable bylaw under the Public Health Act.
Community Peace Officers will be enforcing the public health orders in the region.
The RMWB has 14 Peace Officers who can enforce the mandatory two-week self-isolation for returning international travelers, mandatory ten-day self-isolation for people with symptom and restrictions on mass gatherings and for non essential businesses.
“Right now, our Officers are completing proactive patrols and focusing on areas where higher volumes of public complaints are identified. We will continue to adapt our patrol areas based on the complaints we receive and deploy our crews throughout the region to effectively respond.”
Pending legislation will also allow other Peace Officers and Bylaw Enforcement Officers to enforced orders under Public Health Act.
The RMWB’s Bylaw Services Department has an additional 24 Community Peace Officers and Bylaw Enforcement Officers who are on duty daily and is planning to provide an additional watch to increase enforcement.
“As a department we are well positioned to handle the responsibility of enforcing the Public Health Act, and all municipal bylaws and closures that have been put in place to keep our community safe during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are prepared, we are staffed up and we are already out in the community responding to complaints and educating residents on the actions they can and cannot be conducting at this time.”
Officers are conducting proactive patrols to monitor the compliance of the health orders and closures and to enforce the requirements if necessary.
They are working to enhance education through signage at outdoor spaces and amenities and creating handouts with details on what is closed and what will happen if someone is found violating a public health order.
At this time municipal parks, including sports fields, sports courts, green spaces, dog parks, green spaces, skate parks, playgrounds and Municipal structures are closed until further notice
Trails and walkways remain open with people recommended to physical distance by at least two meters and stay home if they do not feel well.
Reports of someone violating public health can be submitted to Pulse at 780-743-7000 or 1-800-973-9663 or through the provincial online complaint form.
Complaints made to PULSE will be followed up by a Community Peace Officer who will file an incident report with Alberta Health Services.
The online complaint form will have a health inspect asses the report and may result in the assistance of a Community Peace Officer to address the issue.