If you have a fender bender in Nashville these days, chances are you’ll be filing your report by phone. In Philadelphia, the police are trying not to take drug dealers to jail. In Hilton Head, S.C., the authorities have seemed particularly focused on one offense: gathering and drinking on the beach.
But even that transgression was unlikely to lead to an arrest. Across the country, violators of new rules that require staying at home and keeping your distance from others are most likely to get off with a warning.
Police departments are treading softly as they navigate the twin demands of the coronavirus pandemic: how and when to enforce the new safety regulations, and how to do their regular work in the midst of a national health emergency.
“This is a very, very stressful time, and we will approach our job with compassion,” said Maj. Bob Bromage of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina, where Hilton Head beaches were closed to prevent large congregations of spring break revelers.
Several police departments in areas under restriction orders, including in the San Francisco Bay Area, have taken an “education over enforcement” approach, preferring to warn people rather than to arrest them.
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