Toronto police are enforcing city bylaws and provincial orders this weekend to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Police say they are prepared to issue fines of up to $1,000 to people who violate a new physical distancing city bylaw enacted on Thursday. An enforcement blitz, announced on Thursday, began on Friday and runs all weekend.
Any two people who don’t live together and who fail to keep two metres apart in a park or public square could be ticketed.
Meaghan Gray, spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service, said in an email on Saturday that 160 officers have been dedicated to patrolling areas where police have determined that people have been not complying with bylaws and orders.
The officers have been pulled from the service’s primary response units, community response units, mounted and marine units and members of its parking enforcement unit. The officers are also working with city bylaw officers.
Gray said the blitz is focused on part on ensuring the new physical distancing bylaw is respected.
“While education about this bylaw is the preferred method of enforcement, if necessary tickets of $1,000 will be issued,” Gray said in the email.
People who park in parking lots of parks that have been closed can also face tickets of $100 and be towed.
Police, she added, are also enforcing bylaws and orders that forbid social gatherings of more than five people, as well as the use of parks amenities that have been closed and non-essential businesses remaining open.
Fines for violating a provincial order under the Emergency Measures Act can range from $750 to $100,000, including up to one year in jail.
As of Saturday at 12:30 p.m., police have issued tickets to 21 people for non-compliance, summonses to two businesses and nine notices for failure to comply with provincial orders in Toronto.
As well, the city’s 311 line has received 1,409 complaints related to irresponsible or illegal behaviour in its parks since the province prohibited gatherings of more than five people and the city closed park amenities, parking lots and playgrounds.
Toronto Public Health reported on Saturday that the city now has 1,026 cases of COVID-19, an increase of 101 cases from Friday.
Of the cases, 823 cases are confirmed and 203 are probable, 66 cases have recovered, 125 are in hospital, with 53 in intensive care units. In Toronto, 25 people have died of COVID-19.
Community spread is responsible for 27 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the city.
Mississauga city bylaw officers patrolling parks
Meanwhile, in Mississauga, the city’s bylaw enforcement officers are enforcing the rules at 10 “favourite hotspots” where people gather, according to Mayor Bonnie Crombie.
The officers will try to educate people first, but could fine people $750 if they’re “being obstinate and don’t care,” she said.
In a news release, the city of Mississauga said the officers are patrolling parks to enforce emergency orders to limit gatherings and promote physical distancing. They will issue fines of at least $750 where applicable, and are barricading the entrances to park parking lots. Vehicles in parked in lots will be ticketed and towed.
“We are in the midst of a health emergency and we need everyone to do their part. While it is exciting that spring has arrived and we all want to enjoy the beautiful weekend weather, we cannot enjoy parks and outdoor spaces like we have in the past,” Crombie said in the release.
“I have received countless e-mails, tweets and messages about people not respecting physical distancing and reports of vandalism in our parks. We have enforcement in place to protect people — we aren’t doing this because we want to, we are doing this because we have to. We are asking people to listen and please follow the rules.”
Const. Bancroft Wright, spokesperson for Peel Regional Police, said Peel police also have the ability to issue tickets. “We are able to ticket, but our main goal is to educate the public,” he said.
Over 100 vehicles turned away from Humber East, West lots
In a news release on Saturday, the city of Toronto said enforcement teams had turned away more than 100 vehicles from Humber East and West parks parking lots as of 1 p.m.
Since March 24, the city’s municipal licensing and standards division has responded to 407 complaints and issued 34 notices for failure to comply with provincial emergency orders.
Since that time as well, Toronto Public Health has gone to 409 bars and restaurants that were identified as not complying with provincial orders. Of the bars and restaurants, 162 were closed and 18 warning letters were issued for failing to stick to takeout and delivery only.
And Toronto Public Health has gone to 109 businesses such as nail salons and hair dressers, closing 105 and issuing four warning letters.
According to the city, the new physical distancing bylaw is in effect for at least the next 30 days.