A handful of law enforcement officials around the state of North Carolina have announced they have no plans to enforce the latest requirement of Gov. Roy Cooper that people wear masks in public the prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Hope Mills Police Chief Joel Acciardo isn’t among those who will ask his officers to ignore the provision. At the same time, he said the emphasis won’t be heavy-handed, and based on how the community has reacted to previous restrictions put in place to help curb the spread of the illness, he expects the citizens of Hope Mills to be supportive.
“The goal is not to go out and write people tickets,’’ Acciardo said. “The goal is to educate people and bring them into compliance. So far we haven’t had any issues in that area.’’
One of the most popular locations in town for regular large gatherings of people is Hope Mills Lake. While the initial job of getting people to observe the restrictions while at the lake falls on lake attendants, Acciardo said whenever the police have had to be called in so far, intervention and education have usually resolved the situation without complication.
If someone does refuse to abide by the requirement to wear a mask in public, Acciardo said a charge of criminal trespass could be assessed if the person refuses to wear a mask and won’t leave the premises.
“Dialogue goes a long way,’’ Acciardo said.
As long as people are on their own property and not having a gathering in excess of 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors, they are free to not wear a mask.
Acciardo said if the police do encounter someone without a mask, the police department currently isn’t able to provide people with them.
“Our supplies are so limited,’’ he said. “Most of the time we barely have enough to cover our staff.
“These facemasks are not meant to be used forever. There is a pretty quick turnover. Our supplies are pretty finite.’’
As long as the officers are inside their cars, Acciardo said they will not be required to wear a mask, only needing to put them on when they have to interact with the public.
As of this writing, Acciardo said the police department was still developing the policy and when masks would have to be worn inside police headquarters.
He strongly suggested that everyone familiarize themselves with the latest requirements set down by Gov. Cooper in his most recent official order regarding safety measures required in public.
Go to www.nc.gov/covid-19/covid-19-executive-orders and click on the link to the June 24 order for complete information.
If anyone has questions about the enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions in Hope Mills, Acciardo can be reached at 910-425-4103.