If reduced traffic, empty parking lots and vacant stores are any indication, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s statewide stay-at-home order has taken root.
But that doesn’t mean people aren’t reporting offenders.
A spokesman said state police have received 119 calls reporting businesses being noncompliant with the order, which went into effect Tuesday in the battle against the spread of COVID-19. Though no citations had been issued as of Wednesday morning, state police can charge violators with running afoul of a public health act.
State police spokesman Officer Dusty Francisco said that while the department’s officers are the only members of law enforcement with the ability to issue citations, they have refrained from immediately ticketing people in hopes businesses will quickly adapt.
“We anticipate many of those businesses would comply in the interest of protecting public health and thankfully, that is what we have encountered so far,” Francisco said, noting Chief Tim Johnson has ordered officers to educate noncompliant businesses about the requirements of the order and allow them the chance to adjust.
Not all businesses are closed. The order allows businesses deemed essential, such as supermarkets, medical facilities, gas stations, homeless shelters and child care facilities, to remain open.
According to state statute, any person violating a public health act is guilty of a petty misdemeanor and faces a $100 fine, up to six months in a county jail or both. Each subsequent day of noncompliance is a separate offense.
State police, Francisco said, are working with local agencies to push compliance.
“Those rules are only enforceable by New Mexico State Police; however, we are going to be there to support them with that,” said Santa Fe Police Department Deputy Chief Ben Valdez.
Juan Ríos, a spokesman for the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, said no deputies had been dispatched to speak to anyone at businesses suspected of being out of compliance as of Wednesday afternoon.
“The first tactic that will be used is to educate people in terms of communicating with them that they can’t be in operation,” Ríos said.
According to the Santa Fe Regional Communication Center, only one report of noncompliance in the city and one in the county had been received.
Santa Fe County spokeswoman Carmelina Hart said on a business’s first offense, an officer or supervisor will call the establishment to learn more about the situation and remind operators to adhere to the order.
If a second offense is reported, an officer will go to the business in person, she said.
On the third report, the county will email state police with documentation of all three calls.
According to the state’s order, businesses could face criminal or civil penalties if they do not comply and possibly lose their operating licenses.
Santa Fe County Growth Management Director Penny Ellis-Green said if a business were in violation, it would be the responsibility of the state to enforce those rules.