Emergency lines and the Attorney General's Consumer Protection hotline were flooded with calls reporting noncompliance with the governor's stay at home order on Tuesday.
The order, which calls for the suspension of all nonessential activity, went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday and by the evening it was unclear who should be fielding the calls clogging state and local agencies' phone lines.
“These are unprecedented times and my office is working with Gov. Whitmer’s office, local law enforcement agencies and other parties to ensure these executive orders are being followed,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said Wednesday.
Nessel says all calls of noncompliance should be directed to local law enforcement agencies. This will allow the AG's Consumer Protection team to continue taking calls on reports of price-gouging and scams.
Kent County Sheriff's Office Lt. Joel Roon said the sheriff issued a directive educating the patrol staff on how to respond to these calls early Tuesday morning. Of the average 1,100 calls Kent County dispatchers receive a day, Roon estimates a couple hundred of those are related to the stay at home order.
"While our dispatchers will be very busy, they can handle it," Roon said. "We haven’t seen a consistent day-to-day overwhelming number of calls, it’s very manageable at this point."
But, Lt. Roon asked that people call the county's non-emergent line at: (616) 632-6100t to report these violations. Similarly, Grand Rapids Police are directing people to call 311.
Ottawa County Sheriff's Office set up an email address for the reporting of noncompliance issues. Capt. Mark Bennett said the department will not be able to follow up on every complaint, but an officer will be monitoring the inbox to determine what requires further investigation. The email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office set up a phone number and email address for individuals to report noncompliance issues. The phone number is (269) 385-6101. The line will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., but callers will be able to leave a voicemail if lines become overwhelmed. The email address is: email@example.com.
Berrien County asks that residents call its COVID-19 Response Hotline at: (800) 815-5485.
As a general rule, Michigan State Police Fifth District Lt. DuWayne Robinson advised that people call their local department's non-emergency line when it comes to stay at home compliance issues.
"Please do not clog up 911 to report if you see people not complying with this order," Robinson said.
Robinson said that only egregious instances of noncompliance should be reported. Law enforcement's focus is on things like large parties or nonessential businesses continuing to operate. He also said law enforcement will not be randomly stopping people to check their destination. Freeways will remain open and there will be no law enforcement checkpoints.
There are still some grey areas about what makes a business 'essential', so the state has put together an FAQ to answer some of those questions. The AG's office says if an answer is not found, residents can email the office for an interpretation. However, the AG's office said responses to inquiries will likely be delayed as it will need to discuss questions with the governor's office before replying. Residents can also direct questions to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services' COVID-19 hotline, seven days a week, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., at 888-535-6136.
“This situation is fluid and rapidly changing, and we appreciate your patience,” Nessel said. “We’re all in this together and we are counting on every resident to do everything they can to stay safe, stay healthy and stay home.”
The AG's office said violations of the stay at home order could result in up to 90 days in jail or a $500 fine. Businesses in regulated industries can also face licensing and other restrictions. Nessel said her office stands ready to assist local prosecutors as these cases move forward. On Thursday, Nessel's office established a Know Your Employment Rights FAQ for employees to reference.
All critical infrastructure employees, people engaging in outdoor activities while social distancing and those performing tasks necessary to the health and safety of themselves or their family (i.e. going to the grocery store or pharmacy) are exempt under the order.
All price-gouging or scam reports can continue to be made online or by calling the AG office’s tip line at 877-765-8388.
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