Even though the University of Maryland’s campus is mostly empty, University Police Chief David Mitchell says officers have reported four violations of the stay-at-home order so far this month.
The order, which Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced at the end of March, prohibits Marylanders from leaving their homes except for essential outings such as trips to the grocery store or the pharmacy. Intentional violation of the order is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by jail time, a $5,000 fine or both.
Although officers enforce the order when they find violators, Mitchell said they have been approaching incidents with an emphasis on informing.
“If we can resolve this through persuasion, education and warnings, then we do,” Mitchell said. “And that seems to be working.”
Hunter Petit, a sophomore government and politics and information systems major, is still living in his dorm on South Hill. The campus is pretty quiet, he said, but he did come across a group of about eight people playing volleyball.
While Petit said he doesn’t usually see people violating the order, he believes police should break up any groups who do.
On Friday, police responded to an incident at a bike rack near the Chemistry Building and found three individuals meddling with bikes, Sgt. Rosanne Hoaas wrote in an email. They were issued a denial to campus, Hoaas wrote.
Before that, police received a request on April 12 to open an on-campus apartment. The request came from a student who wanted to retrieve belongings she had left in her apartment. Police denied her request and met with her to explain that she was in violation of the stay-at-home order, Hoaas wrote. The student was referred to the Office of Student Conduct.
The next day, police stopped a man and woman who were sitting on a bench near the golf course after 4 p.m, Hoaas wrote. Police had only come across them since they were responding to a burglary alarm, which police believe to be unrelated to the pair. They were referred to the Office of Student Conduct.
And on April 14, an officer found two males in a vehicle inside a parking garage, Hoaas wrote. They were informed that they were in violation of the order and were escorted off campus, she wrote.
Enforcing the stay-at-home order has changed day-to-day work for police, Mitchell said. His officers are used to managing larger crowds at sporting events — not keeping track of people who violate social distancing mandates, he said.
And shifts for officers look a bit different now, Mitchell said. They hold roll calls outside, with masks strapped across their faces, and sanitize their cars.
“It’s a different kind of risk,” Mitchell said. “This is an invisible threat.”